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Written by: Darlene D'Altorio-Jones (1959-2015) on Tuesday, January 1, 2013 Posted in: Inpatient Rehab

If you sign up for Medicare & Medicaid email updates, you will now and again get a message from Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to your preferred mailbox.  I chose to do so because it’s easier than looking for new information. Delivered recently to my inbox was an updated message that more than five billion dollars has been saved in Prescription Drug Gap Coverage and millions have accessed Annual Wellness Visits.

If you are curious as to the savings in your own state or territory, just click on the links above made available through cms.gov.

Despite a vast amount of news coverage on the Affordable Care Act, most specifically in a negative sense and generally throughout the period of campaigning and elections, very little information was given as to how various portions of the act enabled new and different benefits the elderly could rely upon. Two of these benefits, more affordable medications and the ability to treat conditions earlier when they are less expensive, were not the most visible to the public eye.

It’s important for healthcare providers to alert patients to resources available to them. A free ‘New to Medicare’ visit is available for persons initially signed up for Medicare within their first year, after that year the annual wellness visits are available at no cost. Think of the patients you are presently treating in your hospitals. Could knowledge of this access have improved or prevented the major symptoms requiring admission? How can your facilities do a better job in advocating for your patients healthcare? Do you ask this question to your patients: “have you accessed no cost or lower cost options available to you that may have helped prevent or lessen your present health care need?”

The future of medicine lies in preventative care when millions of baby boomers reach an age where healthcare is attempting to stay cost neutral. We are either part of the solution or part of the problem. What percent of the population accessing an annual wellness visit is acceptable and what percent did your particular state achieve? Can we look at statistics to see if persons accessing wellness visits had less costs per year than a similar patient not accessing these services? Are there particular diagnoses your facility can manage in an innovative way to swing health care dollars to prevention rather than over utilization? Most likely there is, but our leadership must understand affordable care today so we can ACT in ways that sustain meaningful healthcare for all in the future.

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