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Thursday, September 23, 2010

Preventive care services will save lives

This post was written by Valerie Arkoosh, MD, MPH, President of the National Physicians Alliance.

Today is a watershed moment for America’s families.  While the significance of this day may come on slowly, it marks the point from which all new health insurance plans must provide no-cost preventive care.  Proven preventive services – like mammograms, blood pressure and cholesterol tests, flu vaccinations, and well-baby care – will no longer include a co-pay, co-insurance, deductible, or other charge.

Why is this so significant?  There are two primary reasons. 

First, regular access to preventive care is one of the best ways to head off disease and prevent late-stage illness.  Finding an illness in its early stages makes its progression much easier to prevent.  And, diseases caught early are significantly cheaper and easier to treat than advanced diseases.

Second, even small co-pays and limited co-insurance deter Americans from accessing necessary preventive care.  Study after study shows that patients may avoid a check-up or filling a prescription if it involves a co-pay, even one as small as $15.  One study published in The New England Journal of Medicine found that a co-pay of $12.50 was sufficient to deter women from getting regular mammograms. 

Too often, tests are avoided or appointments canceled because of costs.  Yet, health insurance is often so complicated that a patient can’t easily predict how much a doctor’s visit will cost; what the co-pays for generic or brand name drugs will be, whether a provider is in-network or out-of-network (and what that means for co-insurance rates), or even whether or not you’ve paid down your deductibles. 

Many American families are on fixed incomes.  Many more are being vigilant about their expenses, working to expand their savings.  With back-to-school costs, birthdays, and other fluctuating expenses, it is no wonder that a $10 co-pay or 20% co-insurance may just be enough to deter hard working people from getting regularly scheduled preventive care on time, or at all.

The improvements in access to preventive care taking effect on Sept. 23rd are bringing assurance and a sense of security to families and patients.  The changes will improve health by removing an often-significant financial barrier to regular preventive care.  This will not only save money for individuals, it will save lives.

Click here for more information.  For a list of covered services, click here.


This post was written by Valerie Arkoosh, MD, MPH, President of the National Physicians Alliance.