With Father's Day landing right in the middle of this Men's Health Month, it's time for men across Wisconsin to get informed on how health reform helps us and our families.
Reform is officially known as the Affordable Care Act and sometimes as Obamacare. One of the least known parts of the law is that it requires insurance companies (and Medicare) to provide many preventive care services without co-pays or deductibles.
This is important because seven in 10 American deaths and 75 percent of health costs come from chronic diseases like heart disease, cancer, and Type 2 diabetes. In fact, heart disease is the top killer of men. Many of these chronic conditions are preventable, but Americans use preventive care at only about half the rate we should. We need to do better because catching things early or preventing them altogether will save lives and reduce costs.
Included in the list of preventive services that men can take advantage of without co-pays are blood pressure and cholesterol screenings, colorectal cancer screenings for men over 50, and Type 2 diabetes screenings for men with high blood pressure. Many immunizations are also available without co-pays, including tetanus and flu shots. Finally, tobacco cessation interventions are available for men who want to get healthy for themselves and their family. A full list of preventive services is at www.healthcare.gov.
It's also important that my family's health is protected. I know other dads feel the same way, and with reform it's much easier. For instance, my kids can't be discriminated against for pre-existing conditions anymore. In 2014, that provision will be extended to adults. And as my kids grow up, reform will allow them to stay on our insurance until they reach age 26.
For my wife, reform covers preventive services specific to women without co-pays. Mammograms and cervical cancer screenings, for example, are included in these services already. By 2014, insurance companies won't be able to charge women higher premiums.
Finally, by 2014, health insurance will be simpler, easier to purchase, and more affordable when each state gets its new "health care marketplace." This will include private insurance offering different levels of plans in an easy-to-compare format. This means companies will be competing against each other for the business of small businesses and individuals who have a tough time getting insurance now. Think of it like going online to book a hotel. Tax credits for small businesses that provide health care are already available and tax credits for individuals will be added when the marketplace takes effect.
We have a lot to celebrate during Men's Health Month. For you and your family, I hope you'll join me in taking the time to get a handle on what health reform offers.
Doug Hill of Wausau is director of Know Your Care Wisconsin, a nonprofit group devoted to educating citizens about how the Affordable Care Act impacts them.