March 29, 2012
Last week marked the two-year anniversary of the passage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). With heightened focus on the ACA continuing this week, especially on the individual mandate, it’s important to take a step back and understand the strides that have already been made, particularly in chronic disease prevention since passage of the ACA.
According to HHS, 54 million Americans with private insurance saw improvements made to their preventive benefits last year, and more than 32 million Medicare beneficiaries accessed a free preventive service last year, including the new Annual Wellness Visit.
Additionally, the Prevention and Public Health Fund was established as part of the ACA. Last month, though, $5 billion in cuts were made to the fund to pay for the temporary SGR fix. While the Prevention Fund stands for our national commitment to promote wellness in America, the Fund’s ability to trim health care costs by improving health will be marginalized by these cuts.
While policymakers increasingly recognize the debilitating and costly impact of chronic disease on the health care system, we are not doing enough to address the economic and physical threats chronic disease pose. The burden of chronic diseases on our nation’s health care system continues to increase – it’s now responsible for 84 percent of health care spending, and one in two Americans currently battle one or more chronic conditions. This level of growth is unsustainable and now, more than ever, makes the case for a collective effort to understand, invest in and promote mechanisms and evidence-based programs that will reduce the prevalence of preventable chronic diseases and improve health outcomes. Only by addressing chronic disease can we sustainably lower health care spending.