Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Arizonans get some relief in wake of Republicans’ massive health care cuts

Preventive health treatments to be easier to access thanks to federal health care law

STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – More Arizonans will be able to make routine doctor visits to head off potentially serious conditions thanks to the Obama Administration’s finalization of rules developed after the passage of the Affordable Care Act of 2010.

The federal departments of Health and Human Services, Labor, and the Treasury issued new regulations on Wednesday, requiring new private health plans to cover evidence-based preventive services and eliminate cost sharing requirements for such services.

The new rules will help Americans gain easier access to services such as blood pressure, diabetes, and cholesterol tests; many cancer screenings; routine vaccinations; pre-natal care; and regular wellness visits for infants and children.

“Arizonans this year were hit the hardest when Republicans and Gov. Jan Brewer kicked 400,000 kids, adults and seniors off of health care and voted to be the only state in the nation to eliminate health care for children,” said Assistant House Democratic Leader Kyrsten Sinema, a member of the White House Health Reform Task Force. "I am pleased with the new rules, which will allow women to get the mammograms they need to prevent breast cancer, kids to be immunized and our state to reduce costs all at the same time.”

After Brewer and Republicans made massive cuts to health care this year, Democrats restored health care for children, and the new health care law restored health care for Arizonans.

Preventable and treatable chronic diseases are the leading causes of death in the United States and the leading cost drivers in our health care system. According to the Centers for Disease Control, heart disease and stroke, are the first- and third-leading causes of death for both men and women and account for more than one-third of all American deaths. The total cost of heart disease and stroke was estimated to be more than $448 billion in 2008.

“Primary care providers have the tools to help prevent disease, but we are all ultimately responsible for lowering the costs of health care in this nation,” Sinema said. “By kicking hundreds of kids, adults and seniors off of health care, Brewer and Republicans only keep pushing Arizona down the wrong track and drive up our deficit.”

Under the regulations issued Wednesday, new health plans beginning on or after September 23, 2010, must cover preventive services that have strong scientific evidence of their health benefits, and these plans may no longer charge a patient a copayment, coinsurance or deductible for these services when they are delivered by a network provider. Specifically, these recommendations include:
  • Evidence-based preventive services: The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, an independent panel of scientific experts, rates preventive services based on the strength of the scientific evidence documenting their benefits. Preventive services with a “grade” of A or B, like breast and colon cancer screenings, screening for vitamin deficiencies during pregnancy, screenings for diabetes, high cholesterol and high blood pressure and tobacco cessation counseling will be covered under these rules.
  • Routine vaccines: Health plans will cover a set of standard vaccines recommended by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices ranging from routine childhood immunizations to periodic tetanus shots for adults.
  • Prevention for children: Health plans will cover preventive care for children recommended under the Bright Futures guidelines, developed by the Health Resources and Services Administration with the American Academy of Pediatrics. These guidelines provide pediatricians and other health care professionals with recommendations on the services they should provide to children from birth to age 21 to keep them healthy and improve their chances of becoming healthy adults. The types of services that will be covered include regular pediatrician visits, vision and hearing screening, developmental assessments, immunizations, and screening and counseling to address obesity and help children maintain a healthy weight.
  • Prevention for women: Health plans will cover preventive care provided to women under both the Task Force recommendations and new guidelines being developed by an independent group of experts, including doctors, nurses, and scientists, which are expected to be issued by August 1, 2011.

More information on the Affordable Care Act’s new rules on preventive care can be found at: http://www.healthcare.gov/law/about/provisions/services/index.html
The regulations can be found at: http://www.healthcare.gov/center/regulations/prevention/regs.html

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