The Health Reform Law requires that insurance plans must cover evidence-based prevention services with no cost share to the consumer starting on September 23, 2010. The White House brought out the big guns today, with first lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden joining Secretary Sebelius in announcing new regulations that lay out specific requirements for insurers.
The regulations delineate the evidence-based preventive services that must now be offered by new health insurance plans without deductibles, copays, or coinsurance. They include everything from blood pressure screening, cancer screening, cholesterol screening, obesity counseling, and smoking cessation programs, to a wide array of immunizations. (Click here to see the full list.) Research has shown that out of pocket costs contribute to underutilization of these services, and conversely that better coverage of preventive services results in expanded utilization.
“Getting access to early care and screening will go a long way in preventing chronic illnesses like diabetes, heart disease, and high blood pressure…that consume over 75% of the health care spending in this country,” said the First Lady. This is an important first step in redirecting the focus (and spending) in our health care system from taking care of us when we get sick, to keeping us from getting sick. Additionally, preventing chronic disease improves both the health of the individual and of our economy. Chronic disease leads to missed work days and a less productive workforce; and according to numerous studies, the impact of this lost labor is approximately $260 billion a year.
The implementation of this provision will directly impact 41 million Americans starting in September, and 88 million by 2013.
The First Lady also made specific mention of the burgeoning epidemic of childhood obesity, and the importance of early intervention in order to curb devastating long-term impacts.