Washington, D.C. – The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), last year’s landmark health reform law, eliminated insurance copayments for many important screenings and preventive checkups for Medicare patients. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has released a new report showing that more than 5 million Medicare recipients – nearly one in six beneficiaries – have taken advantage of at least one of those benefits since the beginning of the year.
As the report notes, “Beginning January 1, 2011, the Affordable Care Act eliminated Part B coinsurance and deductibles for recommended preventive services, including many cancer screenings and key immunizations. The law also added an important new service — an Annual Wellness Visit with the doctor of their choice— at no cost to beneficiaries. As of June 10, 2011, approximately 5.5 million people with traditional Medicare used one or more of the preventive benefits including, most prominently, mammograms, bone density screenings, and screenings for prostate cancer.”
Annual Wellness Visits include a review of the patient’s health and the development of a personalized wellness plan. Over 780,000 beneficiaries received an Annual Wellness Visit between January 1 and June 10, according to the CMS report.
“This is how good laws work,” said Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva, who voted for the reform bill. “We’ve made important health care services more available to millions of people and saved taxpayer money at the same time. Every disease or chronic condition we avoid because of an early screening means a healthier American and less cost to the public in the long run. I hope seniors in Southern Arizona and around the country take advantage of these services as often as possible.”
CMS also released an open letter to doctors explaining how the PPACA makes more health services affordable and available to all patients regardless of their Medicare status. Protections already in effect include:
The agency also launched a Spanish version of the Medicare website at http://es.medicare.gov. Medicare’s dedicated caregivers’ website “Ask Medicare”(http://www.medicare.gov/caregivers) now has a prevention section especially for caregivers.
The CMS report is available at Grijalva’s Web site at /sites/grijalva.house.gov/files/migrated/uploads/PreventionReport.pdf. The “Dear Doctor” letter is available at /sites/grijalva.house.gov/files/migrated/uploads/DearDocLetter.06%2020%202011.pdf.