June is National Prevention and Wellness Month

This June has been declared the first ever National Prevention and Wellness Month. As explained in a release issued Monday, June 20 by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS), this is part of an initiative, sparked by the Affordable Care Act, to foster prevention, provide helpful health tips and information, and implement policies and resources encouraging activities that will help Americans get healthy and stay healthy.

Information on Prevention and Wellness

In recognition of Prevention and Wellness Month, HHS issued a fact sheet listing some helpful information on prevention and wellness, including information on Men’s Health, Women’s Health, and senior health (for men and women 50+), provided by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

Also on Monday, June 20, Medicare launched a nationwide public outreach campaign, including a letter to doctors and a new Public Service Announcement that will raise awareness about all of the important preventive benefits now covered at no charge to patients, including the new Annual Wellness Visit benefit created by the Affordable Care Act.

The agency also launched the full Spanish version of the www.Medicare.gov website at: http://es.Medicare.gov. In addition, Medicare’s dedicated caregivers’ website “Ask Medicare” (www.Medicare.gov/caregivers) now has a prevention section especially for caregivers.

You can find additional information on prevention benefits online at www.Medicare.gov, and at www.healthcare.gov/learn. See also, www.hhs.gov/safety/, for further information on Prevention.

National Prevention Strategy

Last week, on June 16, the National Prevention Council and HHS released the National Prevention Strategy, the U.S. government’s plan, mandated under the Affordable Care Act, to help increase the number of Americans who are healthy at every stage of life. More information, including a link to the full copy of the National Prevention Strategy, is provided in our previous article, National Prevention Strategy Released June 16 Under Affordable Care Act.

New FREE Preventive Health Services Available under Affordable Care Act

On Monday, June 20, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) released a new report showing that 5.5 million Americans with traditional Medicare – or nearly one in six people with Medicare – have now taken advantage of one or more of the recommended preventive benefits now available for FREE due to the Affordable Care Act. Most prevalent among the new free services that seniors have taken advantage of have been mammograms, bone density screenings, screenings for prostate cancer, and the free Annual Wellness visit to your doctor.

According to an HHS release issued June 20, “The new annual wellness visit can help spark the beginning of an ongoing conversation between patients and their doctors on how to prevent disease and disability. At this visit, beneficiaries can review their histories and make sure their primary care doctor knows about their other providers and prescriptions. They can also talk about the pros and cons of getting an influenza, pneumococcal or hepatitis B vaccination, or find out whether a diabetes test, a bone mass measurement, or any of several cancer screenings would be right for them. Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, Medicare now covers many of these services without cost to patients.”

The new CMS report issued June 20 explains some of the types of preventive benefits now available FREE to Medicare beneficiaries, which include the following (the numbers in parenthesis indicate the numbers of Medicare beneficiaries who have taken advantage of these Free benefits since January 1, 2011 when the Affordable Care Act made them available without cost):

  • a Free “Welcome to Medicare” Exam within the first 12 months of enrolling in Medicare Part B;
  • a Free Annual Wellness Visit to the doctor
  • Bone Mass Measurement (1,549,056)
  • Hepatitis B (HBV) Vaccine (193,383)
  • Tobacco Cessation Counseling1 (20,730)
  • Medical Nutrition Therapy (data not available)
  • Pap Tests (that require physician interpretation) (508,238)
  • Pelvic Examination (535,098)
  • Screening Mammography (2,326,088)
  • Most screening procedures for colorectal cancer.2 (472,075)
  • Ultrasound Screening for Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm (data not available)
  • Pap Tests (that do not require physician interpretation) (582,870)
  • Fecal Occult Blood Test for colorectal cancer screening (466,657)
  • Prostate-specific Antigen (PSA) Test (1,137,131)
  • Diabetes Screening Test (data not available)
  • Cardiovascular Disease Screening Test (data not available)
  • Seasonal Influenza Virus Vaccine (data not available)
  • Pneumococcal Vaccine (data not available)
  • Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) Screening

The National Council on Aging (NCOA), a non-profit organization based in Washington D.C. has also launched a web page entitled June is Wellness And Prevention Month, which provide links to several other wellness resources for seniors. This includes a NCOA fact sheet explaining in some detail the new Free Prevention Services available to seniors on Medicare under the Affordable Care Act.

The Value of Prevention

The renewed push toward prevention is one of the steps being taken by HHS and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) toward fulfillment of its “Three-Part Aim”: (1) Better care and better health (2) at lower cost through (3) improvement in health care. According to a release issued June 20 by HHS/ CMS, “Roughly 70 percent of Medicare beneficiaries had at least one chronic condition in 2008, while as many as 38 percent had between two and four chronic conditions, and 7 percent had five or more. They see an average of 14 different doctors and fill an average of 50 prescriptions or prescription refills a year.” “Preventing chronic disease among the Medicare population would not only improve their health and quality of life, it could help save an estimated two-thirds of the $2 trillion the U.S. spends treating preventable long-term illness today,” according to the CMS/ HHS release.

Other Parts of the Prevention and Wellness Campaign

Other parts of the national Prevention and Wellness campaign spearheaded by the Affordable Care Act, include Community Transformation Grants, initiatives such as the President’s Childhood Obesity Task Force, the First Lady’s Let’s Move! campaign, the National Quality Strategy, and HHS’ Communities Putting Prevention to Work program. “The Prevention and Public Health Fund, as part of the Affordable Care Act, is supporting these and other initiatives designed to expand and sustain the capacity to prevent disease, detect it early, manage conditions before they become severe, and provide States and communities the resources they need to promote healthy living,” according to the HHS release issued June 20.

More Information

For more information on Wellness and Prevention see HelpingYouCare™’s featured resource pages on Wellness/ Healthy Living for Seniors & Caregivers.

And, see our resource pages focusing on Prevention for each of 14 Medical Conditions Commonly Faced by Seniors

See also our previous article, Under Affordable Care Act, Preventive Services Now Free to Medicare Beneficiaries


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