Millions of Americans took advantage of new free preventive health services in 2011, according to new figures released Feb. 15 from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Approximately 54 million Americans received at least one new free preventive service in 2011 through their private health insurance plans. A myriad of preventive services – including diabetes screening, immunization vaccines and diet counseling – are now covered by insurance companies at no extra cost to consumers under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
Beginning Aug. 1 of this year, new preventive services specifically for women will also be provided for no extra costs to patients including cervical cancer screening, anemia screening, contraception and HPV testing.
HHS also estimates that 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 in March 2010.
Together, this means an estimated 86 million Americans have been able to receive preventive health services for no charge, according to two new HHS reports.
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 screening for colon cancer, Pap smears and mammograms for women, wellness visits for children and flu shots for all children and adults. The law also makes many preventive services free for most people on Medicare.
The HHS 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 African Americans, 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. Among Medicare Advantage plans, the report 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.