If you don’t already know, come January 1, 2014, President Obama’s sweeping healthcare reform law known as the Affordable Care Act (ACA) becomes the law of the land. As part of that law, any new health insurance policy sold will have to include coverage for preventative health care without charging a deductible, copayment or co-insurance.
Policies sold under this new legislation will cover cancer screenings, cholesterol tests, and vaccinations. In addition, those looking to quit smoking or lose weight will have access to counseling and evaluations covered by insurance.
Having a healthier population and cutting down on chronic diseases like heart disease and diabetes certainly benefits society as a whole.
Currently, chronic diseases account for almost three quarters of the nation’s total health spending each year. That’s a pretty hefty sum considering that the total cost for health care in the US was $2.6 trillion in 2010.
But the good news is that those diseases are often preventable and treatable with smarter lifestyle choices.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, 35.9 percent of American adults over the age of 20 were considered obese in 2009/2010. Among American children, nearly one third of those under the age of 18 were obese in 2010.
The American weight problem has created an additional public health issue, and that’s diabetes. According to the American Diabetes Association, 25.9 million Americans, or 8.3 percent of the population had diagnosed diabetes in 2011, and an additional 7 million were estimated to be undiagnosed.
By providing access to regular checkups and counseling, the ACA will surely reduce the number of obese Americans, and help those struggling with diabetes and heart disease. There’s also help on the way for people addicted to smoking.
You’d be hard pressed to find an American who didn’t know that smoking kills. According to the CDC, cigarette smoking leads to a variety of cancers including lung, esophagus, larynx (voice box), mouth, throat, kidney, bladder, pancreas, stomach, and cervix cancers, as well as acute myeloid leukemia.
Despite this knowledge though, the latest numbers from the CDC state that 19 percent of American adults smoke regularly, costing the US $96 billion a year in health care expenditures, and another $97 billion in lost productivity.
Under the ACA, those at risk of health issues because of tobacco use can get counseling on how to quit as well as preventative cancer screenings and cessation interventions.
So will these health initiatives work?
The old adage, “Time will tell,” seems especially relevant here. From a logical point of view, extra access to preventative care alone cannot possibly reverse the steep decline in American health.
What’s needed is an extreme cultural shift away from “bigger is better and you’re un-American if you disagree,” mentality for a true improvement in health.
All in all though, progress is still progress. Even if a few more people end up at the doctor, it certainly couldn’t hurt the health problem.