Preventive Care Will Pay For Itself

Preventive Care Will Pay For Itself

In President Obama’s weekly address a couple of weeks back regarding the benefits of the healthcare reform bill, he stated, “Insurance plans will be required to offer free preventive care to their customers – so that we can start catching preventable illnesses and diseases on the front end.” [Source: whitehouse.gov]

I’m not sure what’s going on with the healthcare bill in Washington at the moment.  Lots of discussion – will it pass in congress, perhaps it should be re-written, perhaps we should start all over, etc. – but one part of the bill that seems to be agreed upon by both sides of the aisle in the house and the senate is the section that addresses preventive care.  There are many studies that suggest preventive care saves money in the long run by detecting diseases earlier.  And most health plans will tell you they cover many preventive services, for a small co-payment of course.  But how will health plans implement this section of the health care bill, if it ever passes?

I decided to go back to the opencongress.org website to read the details of this section of the bill.  I was prepared for an overwhelming sea of legal jargon, but I got lucky.  It’s just under a page long and actually has terminology I can understand.  And it’s very detailed in its definition of preventive services.  The first 2 paragraphs were enough to suggest that health plans had their work cut out for them.  It states…

SEC. 2713. COVERAGE OF PREVENTIVE HEALTH SERVICES.
(a) In General- A group health plan and a health insurance issuer offering group or individual health insurance coverage shall, at a minimum provide coverage for and shall not impose any cost sharing requirements for— CommentsClose CommentsPermalink

(1) evidence-based items or services that have in effect a rating of ‘A’ or ‘B’ in the current recommendations of the United States Preventive Services Task Force

If you are interested, click here to see a “cheat sheet” describing what’s on the United States Preventive Services Task Force list that are A or B rated.

After a quick review of this list, I realized that there are many services that could help millions of Americans if they were offered at no cost.  One that stood out was “Behavioral Counseling in Primary Care to Promote a Healthy Diet.”  This could be one-on-one counseling, group sessions, education programs on changing your lifestyle, etc.  With various forms of media there are many ways to reach members with personalized messaging.  And social media has made it even easier to reach and target the members that might benefit the most.  It takes wellness programs directly to people at a highly personalized level, possibly touching them more frequently and with more appropriate messaging.

But why wait for sweeping healthcare reform to provide free preventive care?  It sounds like a good way to manage care.  And if it’s shown that preventive care reduces healthcare costs in the long term, it should be provided to members at no cost.  It appears to me, that the cost of providing free preventive care will pay for itself.

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