Key provisions of the Affordable Care Act (the Act) passed in 2010 recognize that too many of us fail to get the care we need to prevent serious illness. Cardiovascular disease is still the number one killer in this country, but it doesn’t have to be that way. There are many things we can do to lessen our risk for cardiovascular disease and many other diseases. The Act has earmarked $15 billion to create the Prevention and Public Health Fund to invest in proven prevention and public health programs to help Americans lose weight, stop smoking, and adopt other healthy living habits needed to win the battle against heart disease.
It may seem obvious that we should take better care of ourselves, and yet for many of us it isn’t a top priority for many of us, especially with so many other needs competing for our time and dollars. The Act makes taking advantage of preventive services, such as screenings, vaccinations, and counseling more appealing and affordable by eliminating deductibles, co-pays, and co-insurance for employer-sponsored health plans or individual health insurance policies created after September 23, 2010, including preventive services specifically for children and pregnant women. However, some plans may charge you for out-of-network providers and office visits.
You’ll make the most of your coverage if you work with your doctor to develop a wellness plan that includes the appropriate preventive services for you based on your age, gender, and risk factors. If you have questions about what is and isn’t covered under your plan, call your plan administrator. If that doesn’t work, try your state insurance department.
Here are some of the preventive services that may be available to you depending on your plan (for a comprehensive list click here:
- Blood pressure, diabetes, and cholesterol tests
- Many cancer screenings, including mammograms and colonoscopies
- Counseling on such topics as quitting smoking, losing weight, eating healthfully, treating depression and reducing alcohol use
- Routine vaccinations against diseases such as measles, polio or meningitis
- Flu and pneumonia shots
- Counseling, screening, and vaccines to ensure healthy pregnancies
- Regular well-baby and well-child visits, from birth to age 21
If everyone takes advantage of these preventive services now offered at no cost, we will need many more providers. The new law also includes incentives for primary care physicians and plans for improving access to care for underserved communities by allocating $11 billion through 2015 to renovate existing community health centers and build new ones and expand the services offered. In total these initiatives will serve as many as 20 million more new patients, many of them African Americans, Latinos, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, seniors, and women and children in their own communities.
Helpful Prevention Guides
Check out the resources below for more information about what you can do to improve your health and reduce your risk of developing heart and other diseases: