Before Health Care Reform, Many Lacked Preventative Care

Only 50 percent of Americans received crucial health screenings.

Posted: 06/19/2012 11:22 AM EDT
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Thomas R. Frieden

With the U.S. Supreme Court making the decision about whether the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is unconstitutional, another study highlights the state of preventative care in America prior to the ACA. And it doesn't look too good.

Researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention analyzed data from 2007 to 2010 specifically about preventative care — cholesterol and high blood pressure screenings, certain medications and tobacco quitting programs — and found that only half of Americans were receiving it. Keep in mind that preventive care is crucial to our health, because being proactive now can avoid illness in the future, as opposed to waiting until you get sick to seek medical care.

According to HealthDay, other findings include:

—Only 47 percent of patients with heart disease that primarily affects the blood vessels were prescribed the recommended daily dose of aspirin.
—Only 44 percent of patients with high blood pressure had it under control, despite recommendations that adults with high blood pressure receive a clinical treatment plan that might include medications and regular follow-up visits until healthy blood pressure is achieved.
—Despite strong evidence that screening for and treating high cholesterol reduces sickness and death due to heart disease, about 33 percent of men and 25 percent of women were not screened during the previous five years. Of the adults diagnosed with high levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol, only 32 percent of men and women had it under control.
—Fewer than one in 13 tobacco users were prescribed medications to help them quit their habit.

The study's authors emphasize that because one of the ACA's goals is to ramp up preventative care and make it low cost or no cost for Americans, health care reform has the potential to increase Americans' ability to seek preventative care and improve overall health.

In a press statement, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Thomas R. Frieden, M.D., M.P.H. said, "This report provides a snapshot of preventive services for U.S. adults before 2010. As we look to the future, we can track how our nation's health is progressing through better prevention in health care."

Under the ACA, which passed in 2010, you can receive preventive services such as cancer screenings, HIV tests, mammograms and Pap smears without incurring a co-pay or fees toward your deductible. Under the plan, your health care continues even if you have lost your job; provides young people the ability to stay on their parents’ insurance policy until the age of 26; decreases costs for seniors on Medicare; and expands Medicaid coverage eligibility for low-income families.

The ACA is extremely important to African-Americans, especially given our low access to health care and the range of diseases we disproportionately suffer from.

According to Valerie Jarrett, a senior advisor to President Obama, since the ACA passed, more than 2.4 million African-American seniors on Medicare have received free preventative services; 410,000 young African-American young adults gained health coverage; and 5.5 million African-Americans with private insurance do not have to pay extra for preventative services at their doctor's office.

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