Healthcare Reform Emphasizes Prevention

Little-known provisions of healthcare reform bill encourage prevention and healthier lifestyles.  Lost in the war of words about healthcare reform is a series of initiatives intended to prevent disease and promote healthier behavior.  Under the new law, for example, chain restaurants will be required to provide nutrition information on their menus; nursing mothers must be given “reasonable break time” by their employers.

Americans on Medicare will be given free yearly “wellness” physicals to assess their overall condition and screen for symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease.  Medicaid will cover drugs and counseling to help pregnant women stop smoking.  Additionally, a new federal trust fund will pay for bicycle paths, playgrounds, sidewalks and hiking trails to encourage exercise.  These are just a few of the many provisions Congress added to the healthcare reform bill to reduce preventable diseases – and which ultimately could save the government money.

According to John R. Sefrin, chief executive of the American Cancer Society, the new law will save lives because more people will be screened for diseases like breast and colon cancer.  “When people have insurance, they are much more likely to receive screenings and treatment.  And they are more likely to seek screenings when they do not have to pay co-payments or deductibles.”  These screenings mean that diseases like cancer might be detected earlier when they are more easily treatable.

Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) and chairman of the Senate health committee, points out that “we don’t have a healthcare system in America.  We have a sick care system.  If you get sick, you get care.  But precious little is spent to keep people healthy in the first place.”

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