Monday, April 5, 2010

Eight Prevention Initiatives Addressed in the new Healthcare Reform Bill

Now that the dust is settling on the new healthcare reform bill and the major provisions it contains have had commentary from every side, its time to look a little deeper. One area President Obama talked about early on was prevention. I for one was not holding my breath expecting major dollars to be put into this area. But it appears that under the radar a number of wide ranging public initiatives to prevent disease and encourage healthy behavior have been passed. Efforts to combat our sedentary lifestyle, smoking and love of fatty foods are included:

1) More authority given to the FDA to regulate tobacco products
2) Chain restaurants to list nutritional information on their menus
3) Employers must provide reasonable break time for nursing mothers
4) Health insurance companies will soon have to cover all recommended screenings, preventive care and vaccines, without charging copays and deductibles
5) Medicare beneficiaries will get free annual physicals
6) Medicaid will cover drugs and counseling to help pregnant women stop smoking
7) A Federal fund will pay for more bike paths, playgrounds, sidewalks and and hiking trails
8) Employers can offer higher incentives to encourage healthier lifestyles for employees

These initiatives will not have a big impact on saving healthcare costs, particularly at first. Doing a Return on Investment analysis would be discouraging. But they will start to take us in the direction that we need to go. As Senator Tom Harkin, Chairman of the Senate Health Committee said, "We don't have a health care system in America. We have a sick care system. If you get sick you get care. But precious little is spent to keep people healthy in the first place." I couldn't agree more. It will be expensive to turn this around, but it is one of the major things we must do to reverse the trend of out of control spending increases in our healthcare system.

More on this later.

Mark Brodeur

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