Tuesday, July 20, 2010

New Preventive Benefits Coming Soon

If all Americans took the recommended steps to improve their cardiovascular health, the number of heart attacks could be cut by two-thirds and the number of strokes by a third. The American Heart Association encourages individuals to learn about Life’s Simple 7 steps to improve their heart health, http://mylifecheck.heart.org/. But far too few individuals benefit from access to screening tests or counseling on adopting healthy behaviors. The good news is that the Affordable Care Act requires new private health insurance plans and Medicare to provide recommended preventive services for free, beginning soon.

It’s never too late to make better choices for health, and the American Heart Association has adopted a challenging new goal of improving the cardiovascular health of all Americans by 20% by 2020. The first step to improving your health is to know your risk, and the new preventive benefits made available by the Affordable Care Act will help ensure that more Americans have access to the screening and counseling they need to do just that. Among the screening tests and preventive services that will be required to be covered with no co-pays, co-insurance, or deductibles are the following services aimed at preventing heart disease and stroke:

-Blood pressure screening;
-Tests to screen for high cholesterol and diabetes;
-Screening for obesity and counseling from health professionals to promote sustained weight loss;
-Counseling on the use of daily aspirin;
-Tobacco cessation interventions, such as counseling or medication to help individuals quit.

The new rules implementing these provisions of the Affordable Care Act were issued in July by the Obama Administration. For those covered by new health plans, these new benefits will start with plan years beginning after September 23, 2010 (for many Americans, this will mean that this new benefit will begin January 1, 2011). For Medicare beneficiaries, free coverage of these preventive benefits will begin January 1, 2011. Also beginning on January 1, 2011, Medicare will cover an annual, individually tailored wellness visit for Medicare beneficiaries.

To learn more about these new preventive benefits, visit http://www.healthcare.gov/law/about/provisions/services/index.html.

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