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How Does the Affordable Care Act Address Prevention?

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Updated April 24, 2013

How Does the Affordable Care Act Address Prevention?

Public Health Reform - Improving preventive services can save lives, improve quality of life, and save money.

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Question: How Does the Affordable Care Act Address Prevention?

This question was submitted by an About.com user

During the push for a healthcare bill, I was particularly interested in the discussion regarding healthcare education and prevention. Do you believe there is enough emphasis on a pro-active versus reactive approach to healthcare and what is provided in the new healthcare bill that supports healthcare education and prevention?

This question was asked of Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services following an interview in June 2010.

Answer:

The Secretary's office provided the following answer:

Stopping disease and illness before they start is better for doctors, patients, and our national balance sheet. That's why the Affordable Care Act prioritizes prevention, investing in the building blocks of a health-care rather than a sick-care system.

Starting this year (2010), the Affordable Care Act requires new plans to cover recommended preventive services at no charge by exempting these benefits from deductibles and other cost-sharing requirements. In 2011, the Affordable Care Act eliminates cost-sharing for recommended preventive services in Medicare, and covers an annual wellness visit for Medicare beneficiaries. And in 2014, the new Exchanges will ensure coverage of prevention and basic health services, including maternity benefits, to prevent illness and disease before they require more costly treatment.

On June 10 (2010), President Obama signed an order creating the National Prevention Council, led by the Surgeon General, which will elevate and coordinate prevention efforts. Over the next 10 years, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is investing $15 billion in a Prevention and Public Health Fund, which will help lay the foundation for a transformed system that's more effective, and less costly. The first $500 million of this fund has been recently announced by HHS to support prevention activities, strengthen the primary care workforce, and develop our country’s public health infrastructure. These important investments will help more Americans get the care they need early, avoiding costly and unnecessary care down the line.

National Prevention, Health Promotion, and Public Health Council

On June 10, 2010, President Obama issued an executive order creating the National Prevention, Health Promotion, and Public Health Council within the Department of Health and Human Services. The Council will report to the U.S. Surgeon General and will include key members of the President’s cabinet and other government leaders who may be involved in developing health-related policies for different groups of Americans. The council is mandated to:

  • make sure the federal government is focused on improving prevention, wellness, and health promotion practices for the country
  • based on input from a public advisory group and community health experts, make recommendations to the President and the Congress concerning the important health issues facing all Americans and how to improve national health goals, such as the reduction of tobacco use, sedentary behavior, and poor nutrition

The Advisory Group will have up to 25 members (who are not part of the federal government) appointed by the President who will develop health-related policies and recommendations and advise the Public Health Council on lifestyle-based chronic disease prevention and management, integrative health care practices, and health promotion.

For example, the increase in type 2 diabetes is a serious problem that can be not only better controlled, but prevented with appropriate diet and exercise. Coordinating the efforts of the government, the healthcare community, and patients could help to significantly improve the problem.

The following resources provide more information about the Council and the Advisory Group:

Prevention and Public Health Fund

The Prevention and Public Health Fund, part of Affordable Care Act, is meant to significantly expand and continue the government’s investment in prevention and public health programs – $15 billion will be spent over the next ten year for this purpose.

According to Surgeon General Regina M. Benjamin, “With these investments, we are tackling the underlying causes of chronic diseases as well as strengthening our ability to meet the public health challenges of the 21st century. This moves America in the direction of becoming a fit and healthy nation.”

During fiscal year 2010 (July 2010 through June 2011), the government will spend $250 million from the Fund to support the training and development of primary care professionals who frequently deliver preventive services to patients. An additional $250 million will be spent on several prevention and public health initiatives within the federal government and at the state and local level.

The following resource provides more information about the Public health Fund:

Health Prevention Resources

On July 01, 2010, HHS launched a website - HealthCare.gov - to help explain the features and benefits of the Affordable Care Act. The site has the following features:

  • Tools to help people find health insurance coverage in their home state, including information about the temporary high-risk pools -also known as the Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan (PCIP)
  • An outline of the major provisions of the Affordable Care Act, by year from 2010 to 2015.
  • Access to the entire law - all 974 pages!
  • Special pages that explain the impact of the law on families with children, individuals, people with disabilities, seniors, young adults, and employers.

An important feature of the site is information about prevention of illness and information that compares the quality of many of the hospitals in the U.S. The site also provides access to a tool (HealthFinder) that links you to reliable health information based on your needs.

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