Medicare Will Promote Preventive Care
CMS this summer plans to launch a campaign that will encourage Medicare beneficiaries to use preventive services to address a "prevention gap," the Los Angeles Times reports. The campaign will target minority beneficiaries ages 65 and older, a group among the least likely to use preventive services care and among the most likely to develop chronic diseases.
In addition, the 2007 Medicare handbook will focus on preventive services, and beneficiaries currently can call 1-800-MEDICARE or visit the program Web site to determine whether they have missed regular physician examinations.
CMS Administrator Mark McClellan said, "If you take a big step back and look at Medicare spending, 90%-plus of what we are spending is going for the complications of chronic disease," adding, "We can get healthier beneficiaries and a lot lower costs related to complications if we can get more prevention." According to McClellan, the new campaign will work with NAACP and organizations that represent Latinos, Asian Americans and Native Americans and will seek help from national and local organizations that have helped enroll Medicare beneficiaries in the prescription drug benefit.
Over the past two years, Medicare has added a number of new preventive services -- such as "Welcome to Medicare" physical exams for new beneficiaries, blood tests for cardiac risk factors, diabetes tests and training to help beneficiaries with diabetes maintain their blood sugar levels -- but usage has remained low. Medicare covers the full cost of some preventive services but requires beneficiaries to pay part of the cost of other services.
Vicki Gottlich, an attorney with the Center for Medicare Advocacy, said that Medicare beneficiaries do not seek preventative care for a number of reasons such as a lack of transportation, lack of updated information, inability to cover the cost and lack of optimism about their health.
Joshua Sharfstein, public health commissioner for Baltimore, said, "A promotional campaign is a very good idea, but Medicare should also be erasing any barriers that exist. Cost should not be a barrier to evidence-based preventive health care. If something is cost-effective and it saves lives, it should be provided" (Alonso-Zaldivar, Los Angeles Times, 6/19).
In related news, the American Medical Association House of Delegates last week elected Ronald Davis, a Michigan preventive medicine specialist, as president-elect of the organization, the Chicago Tribune reports. Davis, an expert in preventive medicine and public health, will serve as AMA president-elect until next June, after which time he will serve as president of the organization for one year. AMA delegates said that organization public health concerns include tobacco use, obesity and immunizations.
Davis said, "Big public health issues never seem to go away. They may change from year to year, but it seems like there are always big issues out there. I will be the first AMA president to have a board certification in preventive medicine" (Japsen, Chicago Tribune, 6/18).