More Senior Citizens Using Free Medicare Preventive
Care; New Push by CMS Begins
Campaign to educate seniors about new free
preventive care provided by Affordable Care Act; Over 780,000 received
Annual Wellness Visit between January 1 - June 10
June 23, 2011 - The Centers for Medicare and
Medicaid Services (CMS) has released a new report showing that more than
5 million Americans with traditional Medicare - or nearly one in six
people with Medicare - took advantage of one or more of the recommended
preventive benefits now available for free, thanks to the Affordable
Care Act. At the same time the agency launched a campaign to urge more
older Americans to take advantage of the free medical exams.
The Medicare outreach campaign includes a letter to
doctors and a new Public Service Announcement that will raise awareness
about all of the important preventive benefits now offered at no charge
to patients, including the new Annual Wellness Visit benefit created by
the Affordable Care Act.
"The Obama Administration is committed to helping
increase the number of Americans who are healthy at every stage of
life,” said CMS Administrator Donald Berwick, M.D.
"Even in your 70s, 80s, or beyond you can reduce
your risk of disability and chronic illness if you take care of
yourself. With the new free Annual Wellness Visits and free preventive
care, people with Medicare have the tools to take common-sense steps to
take control of their health."
"Further, it's important to get the tests which can
spot a serious illness early when it can be best treated," said Dr.
Berwick. "These preventive screenings are critical, and we want
physicians to take this opportunity to help their older patients
understand how necessary they are."
"The Administration on Aging network of service
providers are the 'boots on the ground' in reaching people on Medicare,"
said Assistant Secretary for Aging Kathy Greenlee.
"These providers see Medicare beneficiaries every
single day at a variety of settings across the country, and serve a
diverse group population. I am committed to ensuring that the Medicare
beneficiaries we serve are aware of and take advantage of their Medicare
According to the report, over 5.5 million
beneficiaries in traditional Medicare used one or more of the preventive
benefits now covered without cost-sharing including, most prominently,
mammograms, bone density screenings, and screenings for prostate cancer.
Annual Wellness Visits
In 2011, Medicare began covering an Annual Wellness
Visit at no cost to Medicare beneficiaries. As part of that visit,
beneficiaries and their physicians can review the patient's health and
develop a personalized wellness plan.
Over 780,000 beneficiaries received an Annual
Wellness Visit between January 1 and June 10. Additionally, more seniors
have used the Welcome to Medicare Exam this year. 66,302 beneficiaries
had taken advantage of the benefit by the end of May 2011, compared to
52,654 beneficiaries at the same point in 2010 - a 26 percent increase.
A renewed push toward prevention is the latest step
toward CMS's fulfillment of its "Three-Part Aim": Better care and better
health at lower cost through improvement in health care.
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.
The new annual wellness visit is seen as a way to
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
Medicare's "Share the News, Share the Health"
campaign will run throughout the summer, with online ads and community
events all over the country starting in July. HHS is releasing a
nationwide public service announcement that is available on YouTube (see
As part of these outreach efforts, CMS has issued a
"Dear Doctor" letter to providers today, calling on them to discuss
preventive care with their patients.
This announcement comes during Prevention &
Wellness Month, as the Obama Administration is highlighting
announcements, activities, and tips that will help Americans get healthy
and stay healthy.
Last week, the National Prevention Council released
the National Prevention Strategy, America's plan to help increase the
number of Americans who are healthy at every stage of life.
The Community Transformation Grants are one piece
of a broader effort to address the health and well-being of our
communities through 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
The Prevention and Public Health Fund, as part of
the Affordable Care Act, is supporting this and other initiatives
designed to expand and sustain the necessary capacity to prevent
disease, detect it early, manage conditions before they become severe,
and provide States and communities the resources they need to promote
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