3/3/2011 4:52 PM ET|
Lifesaving health services -- free
Thanks to the health care reform law, many preventive tests and screenings are now available at no cost. Make sure you qualify before signing up.
Dr. Therese Bartholomew Bevers has met a lot of worried women while working as the medical director of the cancer prevention center at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. Many patients there face a high genetic risk of breast cancer, and they want to talk to a doctor about their options for preventing the disease. But that can be expensive. "If they have to pay out-of-pocket for counseling, price becomes a deterrent," Bevers says.
As of this year, price will no longer be a hurdle when it comes to preventative health care. That's because the health care reform law requires insurance carriers to waive co-pays and other fees that they formerly charged for many services designed to keep people healthy. Specifically, the law bans cost sharing for services rated "A" or "B" by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF); immunizations recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; and screenings suggested by the Health Resources and Services Administration.
Free is always good, and for some patients it may even be lifesaving. For example, women no longer have to pay for annual cervical cancer screenings, or tests for sexually transmitted diseases. Pregnant women can get a host of free preventive exams, plus counseling on how to breastfeed. And all women can get mammograms and genetic testing for the BRCA breast cancer gene. Bevers believes many of these newly free services will help women and their doctors become smarter about preventing disease. "It's critical that we make recommendations based on levels of risk," Bevers says.
Medicare patients can also get a host of new services at no charge. In addition to receiving a "Welcome to Medicare" physical exam, seniors can now receive an annual wellness visit, plus a personalized prevention plan -- all for free. The prevention plan includes tests for cognitive impairments, recommended interventions for people at risk for a list of diseases, and a 10-year plan for staying healthy.
For example, the USPSTF recommends that men between 65 and 75 years old be screened for abdominal aortic aneurysm -- a ballooning of the vital blood vessel that supplies the abdomen, pelvis and legs. If the aneurysm bursts, it can be deadly. Preventing such a complication by getting a picture taken of the aorta is simple, says Gary Rogg, an internist at Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx, N.Y.
"It's a very safe, noninvasive ultrasound," Rogg says. If the test detects an aneurysm that's about to burst, doctors can correct it with surgery. "There's zero downside to going for this test," especially now that it's free, Rogg adds.
High cholesterol can contribute to aortic aneurysms, so it's good news that cholesterol screening and dietary counseling appear on the USPSTF's priority lists. Also included is comprehensive nutritional counseling for obese children.
Some experts hope the cost savings will encourage more patients to be vigilant about their health risks. Last August, the Midwest Business Group on Health (MBGH) released results from a survey in which a staggering 88% of employees admitted that they didn't understand the value of preventive health services. More than 55% said they weren't motivated to stay healthy, and 47% confessed they were reluctant to take time out of their workday to get health screenings.
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"Employers have to find ways to motivate their employees" to take advantage of free preventive services, says Larry Boress, the president and CEO of MBGH. "Many employers offer these great wellness programs, but they never communicate them to employees or their families. The communication has to get to the whole family."
In response to the new law, major carriers such as UnitedHealthcare have posted lists of tests and other services now offered free of charge. Boress says several employers are also testing programs in which they dole out financial rewards to employees who participate in preventive health programs.
Before rushing to make appointments for all these screenings and checkups, though, keep some caveats in mind. If you signed up for a "grandfathered" health plan -- meaning your employer allows you to stick with a policy you had before health reform was passed -- you may not be able to get preventive services for free. That's because the rules don't apply to grandfathered plans.
If you have a newer plan, but it's one that requires a flat co-pay for office visits, you might have to pay something if you actually consult a doctor when you go in for the test. Say, for example, you visit your doctor complaining of sniffles and he reminds you that you're due for a cholesterol test. Even though the test is free, you may have to hand over a co-pay for conferring with the doctor about something else.
The best course of action: Review the lists of preventative services that now qualify for the health reform subsidy, then call your doctor to discuss which ones you should be having -- and which of those are free. As the old saying goes, it won't cost you anything. And it may make you healthier in the long run.
This article was reported by Arlene Weintraub for Reuters.
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This farmer does not take federal subsidies and does not plan to start. The Federal Government should not be in the healthcare game. It is not constitutional and their involvement has done more harm than good.
It's not free. Instead of paying co-pays and such now they just pay higher premiums. No matter how much people try to gloss over the health care reform it did very little for the true problem which is rising health care costs.
No matter which side of the debate you are on no one should like this bill. It didn't take us to socialized medicine like in other nations. It also didn't increase competition in ways to lower costs.
Basically is was a status quo bill minus two major things. 1. Insurance companies can not turn people down anymore(and some controls over how much more they can be charged vs. healthy people). 2. It made it so everyone including the healthy have to get insurance.
Open your eyes this was a bailout for the health insurance industry. They needed all those young and healthy people in the pool to hopefully spread the cost increases more. Because they were pricing health care out of the cost of many people. Now we can force the people who can't afford it to get it anyways.
But the true problem of rising costs and out of control costs was not addressed. It didn't fix the problem. It strawmanned the problem and made us think the uninsured were the issue. But look at history and look at what health care has cost in the past. Our system is raising prices at an out of control rate. In the past people paid a greater percentage of health care costs out of pocket. But the prices were so much lower that they actually spent less on health care then we do now.
The average person spends more on health care now. But the situation is even worse then that looks because they also pay less out of pocket as a percentage of the total. For example lets say a proceedure in the past cost $2,000 when adjusted for inflation. It now costs $10,000 but the out of pocket cost is only $3,000. So the person is paying more now but we as a society are paying even more.
There are two solutions to the problem. One is to go to a one payer model and hope we can use that to control costs. The other is to open up competition. Not only for insurance but for health care itself. There was many things that doctors do that a nurse could do if the AMA would not use their monopoly on health care to stop that. Also we could allow businesses like Wal-Mart to get into cheap health care.
Of course there are many other issues where costs could be lowered like Doctor pay, for profit hospitals, and of course tort reform. But all the fixes have to be done within a system where we overhaul health care as a whole. The current system has failed. It isn't socialism and it isn't capitalism. It a weird hybrid where profit and costs are out of control. We don't have government price controls nor do we have the market price controls of capitalism. It is the kind of market that only can exist in this nation because no other really would let it.
I am a libertarian so of course I want to see market controls put into place. Let customers set the prices. When we have companies compeating the prices will go down. Also let's get some compeition for services. Let nurses do more and save doctors for the major stuff.
Also I hate this talk of death panels and such. It makes no sense. Honestly let me ask you this. If the cost was all on you would you pay $400k just to live 2 to 6 months more? Not healthy living either but in pain and on your death bed?
This is the true problem with end of life health care. We spend money trying to keep people alive who if they knew the costs and knew about the quality of life they would have then they wouldn't want to do it.
Keep me alive and in good health as long as you can but once we get to the end of life just let me go. If you are religious then hopefully you are going somewhere great. For the athiests hopefully you had a long and fullfilling life.
Preventive health care actually cost more than what? Death. "Aneurism" costs more than funeral expenses. Yes. So let's let all the overweight Americans die of complications. Oh, 60% of the entire population are overweight. That will take care of that over population thing. But real estate will take much longer to recover when they die off. Sell the properties to them damn illegals.
The rest of you post is incomprehensible so go back on the meds.
Farmer, last time I looked, the Constitution was over 200 years old, said nothing about health care and could not have forseen the future. So don't wrap yourself in something you desecrate.
But we are all able to be Independent (Declaration thereof) and have the right to pursue life, liberty and justice for all. Or should we forget about that stupid DoI?
We already pay. Where the heck you been?????
Get on board. And most farmers get more federal pay out than small city welfare combined.
But lets not talk about farm subsidies while good people are dying, especially in Arizona where the Repukes have imposed those dreaded "Death Panels."
Hey Sara Quitter, where is the outrage??????
Oh, wait. It actually helps people, their children and people with pre-existing conditions, just like my uninsurable wife.
Let's see how long it takes for the Fox trolls to say preventive care is bad.
"Do your own prostate exam. Be a man. Be self-sufficient, and have another beer, dang it."
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