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ACA extended free preventive services to 54M Americans

The Affordable Care Act provided approximately 54 million Americans with at least one new free preventive service in 2011 through their private health insurance plans, Kathleen Sebelius, Health and Human Services secretary, announced Wednesday.

Sebelius also announced that an estimated 32.5 million people with Medicare received at least one free preventive benefit in 2011, including the new Annual Wellness Visit, since the health reform law was enacted.

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Together, this means an estimated 86 million Americans were helped by health reform’s prevention coverage improvements. The new data were released in two new reports from HHS.

“Americans of all ages can now get the preventive services they need, like mammograms and the new Annual Wellness Visit, free of charge, as a result of the new healthcare law,” Sebelius said in a press release. “With more people taking advantage of these benefits, more lives can be saved, and costly, and often burdensome, diseases can be prevented or caught earlier.”

According to Ellen Griffith, public affairs specialist at Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, after the first 12 months of Medicare enrollment, the beneficiary is entitled to a Annual Wellness Visit, which “is not a physical examination, but is an opportunity for the beneficiary and their physician to review the beneficiary’s health status, and develop a personalized plan to promote wellness.”

The Affordable Care Act requires many insurance plans to provide coverage without cost sharing to enrollees for a variety of preventive health services, such as colonoscopy screenings for colon cancer, Pap smears and mammograms for women, well-child visits and flu shots for all children and adults. The law also makes proven preventive services free for most people on Medicare.

[See also: ACA gives states flexibility in creating insurance exchanges, says report]

In addition to the Annual Wellness Visit, some of the free preventive services for Medicare beneficiaries added in 2011 include obesity screenings, annual depression screenings and alcohol misuse screenings.

The report on private health insurance coverage also examined the expansion of free preventive services in minority populations. The results showed that an estimated 6.1 million Latinos, 5.5 million Blacks, 2.7 million Asian Americans and 300,000 Native Americans with private insurance received expanded preventive benefits coverage in 2011 as a result of the new healthcare law.

The report discussing Medicare preventive services found that more than 25.7 million Americans in traditional Medicare received free preventive services in 2011. The report also looked at Medicare Advantage plans and found that 9.3 million Americans – 97 percent of those in individual Medicare Advantage plans – were enrolled in a plan that offered free preventive services.

Assuming that people in Medicare Advantage plans utilized preventive services at the same rate as those with traditional Medicare, an estimated 32.5 million people benefited from Medicare’s coverage of prevention with no cost sharing.

[See also: Preventive healthcare cuts costs, study finds]

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