A New Approach To Care: Health Incentives In The Affordable Care Act (Guest Post)

Preventative Care is a key aspect of the Affordable Care Act that stands to benefit millions of Americans, in ways that you might not expect.

The term describes an array of services, programs, and incentives that are funded by the government in order to make people healthier. Contrary to what you might think, however, the funds are not limited to impacting care on the individual level.

Rather, the reforms will include everything from building public health centers to creating bike lanes and walking paths. Not to mention, free immunizations for individuals and families.

It’s important for consumers to understand what these changes could mean for them, in every respect. With this thought in mind, let’s explore the ways in which individuals, families, and communities will be impacted by these new reforms.

Individual and Family Health

Individuals and families will benefit tremendously from a host of preventative services that will be offered free of charge by insurance providers, regardless of pre-existing conditions.

Offered services will include: Breast cancer screenings, wellness checkups, domestic violence screenings, contraception, and breast-feeding supplies. Immunizations, counseling services, and depression screenings will also be made available as a result of the new legislation.

For many Americas, this change will mean first time access to potentially life-saving services that work in turn to promote further wellness among individuals, families, local and regional communities.

Public Health and Prevention

Without funding, reforms are simply laws on the books that don’t have any real-world import.

In 2010, The Prevention and Public Health Fund was created in order to ensure that care actually gets to the people who need it, through the development of programs that mobilize entire communities toward the goal of better health.

The fund’s initial budget has been compromised since 2010, but local governments have already received an estimated $290 million to put towards the development of healthy eating programs that are aimed at some of our nation’s deadliest health issues, such as child obesity and diabetes. Funding has also been put to work through infrastructure development to create sidewalks and bike paths, in an effort to encourage daily exercise.

Although the Prevention and Public Health Fund has met some opposition from congressional republicans, the potential for positive impact is clear.

Smoker’s Penalty: Two Sides Of The Same Coin

The Affordable Care Act takes a bold stance on smoking.

The Smoker’s Penalty, as it’s come to be known, has to do specifically with plans offered in the state health insurance marketplaces, which will open for business this October.

Under the ACA, insurance providers are allowed to charge smokers up to 50% more for their coverage than non-smokers, due to the associated health risks.

However a recent, highly publicized computer error has delayed this possibility. This is due to the fact that the computational system in place cannot differentiate between price inputs for smokers of differing ages. The glitch may take up to a year to fix.

Although this may seem like good news to smokers, no one knows how insurance companies will respond to the penalty issue come October.

Some view the smoker’s penalty as discriminatory, while others see the benefit in a hard-nosed incentive to get people to quit.

The good news is that the ACA will provide access to quitting services and products at no charge to consumers, and you can’t be denied coverage for having been a smoker.

All of these incentives, controversial or otherwise, are clear indicators of a much needed change in government thinking. Healthcare reform is doing more to help Americans avoid potential problems altogether. Let’s hope this is just the beginning.

Michael Cahill is the Editor of the Vista Health Solutions Blog. He writes about the health care system, health insurance industry and the Affordable Care Act. Follow him on Twitter @VistaHealth and @VistaHealthMike 

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