Prevention on the chopping block

February 27, 2017

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) included new funding for preventive health and new protections for cancer survivors. We need to act now to protect these programs. The following programs are in danger:

Prevention and Public Health Fund. This program, first put in place by the Affordable Care Act, provides grants for community health outreach programs including tobacco cessation programs, culturally competent public health campaigns, and cervical and breast cancer screening programs in underserved communities. This Fund has come up for elimination before, despite the fact that paying for prevention saves lives and saves money.

Guaranteed Coverage for Preventive Health. Right now, insurance has to cover “essential health benefits.” These include preventive health services, such as HPV and hepatitis B vaccines, pap smears, and breast, lung and colorectal cancer screening. Studies have shown that covering preventive health increases the number of people who get screened. Any new health care bill needs to ensure that preventive health is covered for everyone with no cost-sharing or barriers to access.

Coverage for Pre-Existing ConditionsThe most popular provision of the Affordable Care Act is “guaranteed issue”—that no one can be denied insurance due to a pre-existing condition. This is essential for preventive health. Someone who has taken care of their health and had breast, cervical, colorectal or lung cancer detected and treated early should not be denied insurance at a later date. No one should be penalized for taking care of their health, or for having cancer. Some proposals have suggested that insurers could charge much higher premiums for patients with preexisting conditions, which could place insurance out of reach for many. Even more troubling are proposals that pre-existing conditions are covered, but only for those who maintain continuous coverage with no gaps in their health insurance. This places anyone with employer based insurance one layoff away from losing coverage for their pre-existing condition.

Over the last three years we’ve made gains in preventive health.  Don’t let Congress roll it back. Write to your member of Congress and tell them to protect prevention.

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