Voices of Alaska: A commitment to prevention

  • By Susan Johnson
  • Tuesday, November 15, 2016 8:43pm
  • Opinion

One of the greatest, under-appreciated, benefits of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which remains the law of the land until amended, repealed, or replaced, is access to preventive care services. According to the CDC, potentially preventable chronic diseases (e.g., heart disease, cancer, diabetes) are responsible for millions of premature deaths each year among Americans. Because health problems impact productivity, they are a major drain on the economy, resulting in 69 million workers reporting missed days due to illness each year. This loss of productivity reduces economic output by $260 billion annually.

Preventive care doesn’t just include lab tests for adult diseases. Routine vaccinations can benefit all of us, regardless of age. Children need screenings and assessments throughout childhood to be sure their development is on schedule. Women need prenatal care and screening for breast cancer. Many of us, including teens, need obesity screening and counseling, alcohol use screening, or depression screening.

Unfortunately, many of us only go to the doctor when we’re sick, or don’t go at all. We don’t find out we have diabetes, high cholesterol, or high blood pressure until it has progressed. We don’t get our flu vaccine and end up missing work or school and even land in the hospital.

Preventive care is essential to good health throughout our lives. Getting appropriate screenings, following our providers’ guidance, taking any prescribed medications, and making healthy choices can help us all live more productively—and save us money. It can also help us live independently as we age.

Preventive care services are among the many Essential Health Benefits offered in Qualified Health Plans which include prescription drugs, emergency services, hospitalization, laboratory services, and mental health and substance use disorder services.

Tax credits can make health insurance much more affordable. Approximately 79% of Alaska consumers can get health insurance with premiums under $75 per month. Even better, you don’t have to meet a deductible to get preventive care services.

Open Enrollment for 2017 health insurance coverage continues to run November 1, 2016, through January 31, 2017—you must enroll by December 15 for coverage effective January 1. In Alaska, visit HealthCare.gov or call 1-800-318-2596 to enroll. The Alaska Primary Care Association (APCA) or the United Way of Anchorage can assist you with enrollment. APCA’s enrollment assistance is available at Get Covered Alaska or by calling 1-844-PLANSAK (1-844-752-6725). United Way of Anchorage can provide assistance by calling 2-1-1 or 1-800-478-2221.

Once you’ve enrolled, schedule an appointment for your preventive care services and make a commitment to your health.

Susan Johnson is the regional director for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in Region 10.

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