Many Skip Medicare's Free Preventive Care
Government Urges Patients to Make Use of Free Checkups and Screenings That Are Included in Health Care Reform
June 20, 2011 -- Only one in six Medicare beneficiaries have so far received any of the preventive care services now free to them due to health care reform.
To save lives -- and money -- lost to preventable diseases, the Affordable Care Act offers all Medicare beneficiaries a wide range of preventive services. These services are free with no co-pay involved.
"Our job is to make sure every single Medicare beneficiary knows about and takes advantage of these benefits. So we are announcing a multimedia approach to get the word out," Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said at a news teleconference.
The new "Share the News, Share the Health" campaign will feature TV, radio, and online ads as well as a "Dear Doctor" letter to all health care professionals who see Medicare patients.
Beginning this year, all Medicare beneficiaries are offered a free annual wellness visit. There's a wide range of other free services. Many of the most important services are listed on WebMD's printable checklist.
Services now free to most Medicare beneficiaries include:
- A one-time "welcome to Medicare" preventive visit
- A yearly wellness visit
- Screening for heart disease
- Breast cancer screening (mammograms)
- Cervical and vaginal cancer screening
- Prostate cancer screening
- Flu, pneumococcal, and hepatitis B vaccines
- Osteoporosis screening
- Smoking cessation counseling
- HIV screening
- Diabetes screening
- Medical nutrition counseling for people with diabetes or kidney disease
So far, more than 5 million Americans on Medicare have taken advantage of at least one of these free services. But that's only one in six Medicare beneficiaries.
"Having a person in Medicare go without a potentially lifesaving test because they do not know it is available at no cost is just as bad as them skipping it because they cannot afford it," Sebelius said.
A full description of the preventive care benefits can be found at the medicare.gov/share-the-health web site.