October 20,2009

Promoting Healthy Living through Prevention & Wellness

Because prevention is the first step toward lowering health care costs and increasing our quality of life, the America’s Healthy Future Act works to change the focus of our heath care system from treating sickness to promoting wellness.  Preventive care enables doctors to detect diseases earlier when treatment is most effective, averting more serious and costly health problems later on.  The America’s Healthy Future Act makes critical investments in policies that promote healthy living and help prevent costly chronic conditions such as diabetes, cancer, heart disease, obesity and mental illness.

  • Rewarding Healthy Living - The America’s Healthy Future Act establishes an initiative to reward healthy choices and help millions of Americans lead healthier lives by creating incentives for Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries who participate in healthy lifestyle programs related to lowering blood pressure, controlling diabetes and addressing other risk factors.
  • Requiring Insurance Companies to Cover Preventive Services - The America’s Healthy Future Act requires all health insurance plans in the exchange to provide full coverage of basic preventive services like mammograms and cancer screenings at no extra charge.
  • Helping Pregnant Women Quit Smoking - Providing comprehensive tobacco cessation services to pregnant women has been shown to improve birth outcomes, help pregnant women quit smoking and save money by reducing long-term care needs.  The America’s Healthy Future Act requires states to provide all pregnant women enrolled in Medicaid with free access to comprehensive tobacco cessation services.
  • Encouraging States to Provide Coverage of Preventive Services - The America’s Healthy Future Act encourages states to cover screenings and preventive services in Medicaid, at no cost to patients, by providing a one percentage point increase in the federal match for states that cover recommended preventive services and immunizations.
  • Moving Toward Patient-Centered Care - For the millions of Americans with chronic conditions, coordinated, patient-centered care can add years to their lives.  The America’s Healthy Future Act rewards states for providing chronically ill Medicaid enrollees with a “health home” where patients receive comprehensive, coordinated care and management, transitional care and, if relevant, referral to community-based programs and social services.  States that do so will receive an enhanced federal match of their spending for two years.
  • Promoting Primary Care – Primary care doctors play a critical role in providing preventive services and promoting health and wellness. But the current shortage of primary care providers makes it more difficult for Americans to access necessary preventive care.  The America’s Healthy Future Act will pay primary providers more, to encourage more doctors to practice primary care and provide these vital services.
  • Providing Personalized Prevention and Wellness Visits - The America’s Healthy Future Act will provide more than 40 million Medicare beneficiaries with an annual wellness visit with their primary care doctors to develop personalized prevention plans, address health problems before they escalate into more serious conditions and design a schedule for regular recommended preventive screenings. 
  • Providing Free Preventive Care for Medicare Beneficiaries - A majority of Americans say they delay needed care due to cost. To remove that barrier, the America’s Healthy Future Act will provide recommended screening and preventive services free of charge for all Medicare beneficiaries. 
  • Strengthening Employer Wellness Programs - The America’s Healthy Future Act supports employer wellness programs that reward employees for meeting certain health status targets such as low cholesterol. And, to make sure programs that require employees to meet certain health standards are not discriminating against employees who do not or cannot participate, the bill requires the Secretary of Health and Human Services, the Secretary of Treasury and the Secretary of Labor to review these wellness programs and identify the impact on access to care and affordability of coverage among other factors. If the report shows evidence that the rewards lead to behavior change, without leading to discriminatory practices, the Secretaries can allow employers to provide larger incentives.  The Federal Employees Health Benefits Plan is included in this expansion of employer wellness programs that reward employees for meeting certain health status targets.  Also, a ten-state demonstration project will test the use of wellness rewards in the individual market.