How To Prioritize Preventative Health Care

happy African American woman outsideWhen it comes to preventative care for all Americans, the NMA has a specific, targeted agenda: to preserve the health care safety net and to reduce health disparities.

The Challenges We Face Today

The United States health care system faces serious challenges when it comes to prevention and disease management. Our healthcare system spends about 75 cents of every healthcare dollar dealing with chronic diseases, most of which are either preventable or treatable. Prevention and increased coordination of care would significantly alter the cost equation.

The NMA supports a shift toward prevention and disease management that will serve to improve quality of health care in all populations.

How We Can Take Action

We support the following actions taken by Congress in the recently enacted health reform legislation:

• Require qualified health plans to provide coverage with cost-sharing for preventive services, recommended immunizations, and preventive care for infants, children and adolescents.

• Improve access to care by increasing funding for community health centers and the National Health Service Corps, which will place over 8,500 health care professionals in medically underserved areas.

• Establish the National Prevention, Health Promotion and Public Health Council to coordinate prevention, wellness, and public health activities; provide grants to small employers that establish wellness programs.

Preserve the Health Care Safety Net

As the “Conscience of American Medicine”, the NMA is very concerned about the preservation of the health care safety net. The NMA is convinced that advocacy efforts to protect entitlements such as Medicare and Medicaid are critical to the survival of the nation’s medically underserved populations.

Insured Americans, along with federal and state governments, already foot the bill for the uncompensated care of the uninsured. Higher premiums and disproportionate share (DSH) payments could be reduced if more of the uninsured were covered under their own (affordable) plans.

We support the following actions taken by Congress in the recently enacted health reform legislation:

• Expand Medicaid up to 133% of the federal poverty level. In addition, there is a need to phase down the beneficiary coinsurance rate in the Medicare Part D coverage gap, as well as eliminating cost-sharing for proven preventive services in Medicare and Medicaid by 2011.

• Reduce Health Disparities. The NMA has been responding to inequities in healthcare throughout its history. Although the reasons for disparate health are numerous and complex, bold action must be taken now to reduce and eliminate disparities.

HIT: The Solution To Reducing Health Disparities?

The NMA supports using health information technology (HIT) as one major step in the reduction of Black health disparities.

HIT adoption stands to benefit all Americans by improving information exchange, reducing errors, and cutting costs. We recommend the following actions be taken by Congress:

• Use Health Information Technology (HIT) to collect uniform data by race, ethnicity, and primary language, among other criteria.

• Use cultural competency, improved care coordination, and comparative effectiveness research (CER), among other tools, to contribute to reducing disparities.