One of the greatest, under-appreciated, benefits of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which remains the law of the land until amended, repealed or replaced, is access to preventive care services.
According to the CDC, potentially preventable chronic diseases (e.g., heart disease, cancer, diabetes) are responsible for millions of premature deaths each year among Americans.
Because health problems impact productivity, they are a major drain on the economy, resulting in 69 million workers reporting missed days due to illness each year.
This loss of productivity reduces economic output by $260 billion annually.
Preventive care doesn’t just include lab tests for adult diseases. Routine vaccinations can benefit all of us, regardless of age. Children need screenings and assessments throughout childhood to be sure their development is on schedule. Women need prenatal care and screening for breast cancer.
Many of us, including teens, need obesity screening and counseling, alcohol use screening or depression screening. Unfortunately, many of us only go to the doctor when we’re sick or don’t go at all. We don’t find out we have diabetes, high cholesterol or high blood pressure until it has progressed. We don’t get our flu vaccine and end up missing work or school and even land in the hospital.
Preventive care is essential to good health throughout our lives. Getting appropriate screenings, following our providers’ guidance, taking any prescribed medications and making healthy choices can help us all live more productively — and save us money. It also can help us live independently as we age.
Preventive care services are among the many Essential Health Benefits offered in Qualified Health Plans which include prescription drugs, emergency services, hospitalization, laboratory services and mental health and substance use disorder services.
Tax credits can make health insurance much more affordable. Nearly 70 percent of Washington Healthplanfinder customers who qualified received a total of more than $28 million in tax credits that lowered the premium costs in 2016. Even better, you don’t have to meet a deductible to get preventive care services.
Open Enrollment for 2017 health insurance coverage continues to run Nov. 1-Jan. 31, 2017 — you must enroll by Dec. 23 for coverage effective Jan. 1. In Washington, visit Washington Healthplanfinder or call 855-923-4633 to enroll. You also can find local assistance by visiting Washington Healthplanfinder.
Language assistance and disability accommodations are provided at no cost. Once you’ve enrolled, schedule an appointment for your preventive care services and make a commitment to your health.
Susan Johnson is the regional director of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Region 10.