Just 15 months after it was enacted, the Affordable Care Act is already improving care for people with Medicare, according to program officials, and that success is expected to continue to grow as additional provisions of the law are implemented.
Speaking at a session at APHA’s 2011 Midyear Meeting in Chicago, Caya Lewis, chief of staff for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, spotlighted the inroads that the historic health reform law has made so far. Among the accomplishments is that more than 5 million Americans with Medicare — or about 16 percent of beneficiaries — have received free preventive services because of the law. The new interest in the services, which include mammograms, bone density screenings and prostate cancer screenings, has resulted because the cost barriers have been removed, Lewis said.
“We are really working toward getting people to get what they need for chronic conditions,” Lewis said.
In addition, more than 780,000 beneficiaries received an annual wellness visit — another new benefit — between January and June of this year, Lewis noted. To help reach more Medicare recipients with the message about the new benefits, CMS has launched the Share the News, Share the Health campaign with online ads and community events.
The health reform law has also allowed seniors affected by the prescription drug “donut hole” to receive refunds and rebates for payments. By 2020, that entire coverage gap will be closed, thanks to the law, Lewis said.
Other law-related changes that are expected to improve the health of Americans include measures to hold down rate increases by health insurers, state health exchanges that will allow people to have access to affordable insurance and risk assessments in wellness visits.
“We have a lot to look forward to,” Lewis said. “There’s a lot of work ahead.”
Above, Caya Lewis, left, of CMS speaks with APHA Midyear Meeting attendees following a session on improving the quality, safety and value in the health system. Photo by Michele Late