CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden: How To Overcome The Cost Of Care

A studio image of two hundred dollar bills, a stethoscope and a hypodermic needleEveryone in America should have the chance to live a healthy life, regardless of who they are or where they live or how much money they make. That’s the backbone of CDC’s 24/7 mission – keeping Americans safe and healthy where they work, live and play.

 As we mark National Minority Health Month, CDC stands tall on the foundation laid by some of America’s great black leaders.

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  • In 1899, W. E. B. Dubois recognized that health is inextricably bound to the total human condition.
  • Fifteen years later, Booker T. Washington initiated a health improvement week for black Americans which gained national recognition and is the predecessor of the month we celebrate this April.
  • Today, in the 21st century, one of the landmark achievements of the Affordable Care Act is the strengthening the effort to reduce health disparities and improve minority health.
  • Here at CDC, Dr. Leandris Liburd heads our Office of Minority Health and Health Equity.

The CDC & The Affordable Care Act: Overcoming The Cost Of Care

We at CDC are in the business of preventing and controlling disease. So, in addition to the Affordable Care Act’s provisions to expand health insurance coverage, improve quality and bring down costs, we’re especially excited about its role in advancing prevention and helping Americans stay healthy and identify illness early. 

Despite the proven benefits of preventive tests, screenings, and vaccinations, millions of Americans still don’t take advantage of these services because of barriers such as cost.

The Affordable Care Act, in just three years, has already made a contribution to prevention, saving lives and moving our system from a sick care system toward a health care system.

For many people with health insurance, the Affordable Care Act has eliminated out-of-pocket costs for proven preventive services. Removing co-pays and deductibles is already giving access to these services to more than 70 million Americans. 

The Affordable Care Act gives Americans with new private health plans access to recommended preventive services, including mammograms, flu shots and smoking cessation counseling without financial barriers. The law created the Prevention and Public Health Fund which makes an unprecedented investment in states and communities, helping them promote wellness, prevent disease and protect against public health emergencies.

One example is the Community Transformation Grant program supporting neighborhoods, school districts, villages, towns and cities in tobacco-free living, active living and healthy eating. 

The Affordable Care Act also supports programs that promote healthy behavior. Our campaign, “Tips from Former Smokers,” has helped more than a million Americans try to quit and will extend the lives of tens of thousands of people who quit smoking as a result.

In addition, Million HeartsTM, a joint program of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and CDC, is working to prevent one million heart attacks and strokes over five years.  Heart attacks cause a larger proportion of health disparities between black and white Americans than any other cause.

And efforts such as these…they’re only the beginning. A new health insurance marketplace will be created in 2014 so individuals can compare prices, benefits and health plan performance on easy-to-use websites and can know that their new health plan will offer free preventive care.

Learn more about the key features of the Affordable Care Act here

. Also, find out about the Health Insurance Marketplace and sign up for email and text updates here

Staying Healthy On A Last-Minute Trip

CDC recommends seeing a doctor at least 4–6 weeks before international travel, but a visit to a travel medicine specialist is valuable even if you have less time.

Ideally, you should see a doctor at least 4–6 weeks before international travel, since many travel vaccines require multiple shots and take time to become fully effective. However, even if you are leaving soon, a visit to a travel medicine doctor is valuable.

Some vaccines give partial protection after a single dose, and your doctor can counsel you on other ways you can reduce your risk of illness or injury.

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Talk to your doctor about what vaccines you might need for your trip. Based on your destination and planned activities, you might need some, all, or none of the vaccines discussed in this section.

Tetanus, hepatitis A, typhoid, and polio are all single-dose vaccines. However, if you are leaving soon, your body might not have time to develop protection after the shot, so you should follow your doctor’s advice for reducing your risk of these diseases.

Yellow fever vaccine and meningococcal vaccine are also single-dose vaccines. Proof of yellow fever vaccination is required to enter many countries, and proof of meningococcal vaccine is required for people performing Hajj in Saudi Arabia. This proof is not valid until 10 days after you get the vaccine, so you may need to change your travel plans if you don’t get the vaccine soon enough.

Hepatitis B vaccine requires multiple doses but has an accelerated schedule (more doses given in a shorter period of time) that you may be able to complete before your trip.

Japanese encephalitis and rabies vaccines require multiple doses and do not have accelerated schedules. If Japanese encephalitis vaccine is recommended and you cannot get all the doses, your doctor may recommend taking extra steps to avoid mosquito bites. If you cannot complete a full series of rabies vaccine, you should stay away from all animals and seek immediate medical care if you are bitten.

Malaria Prevention

If there is a malaria risk in your destination, your doctor may prescribe pills to prevent malaria. Some of these drugs must be started 1–2 weeks before you leave, so if you’re leaving sooner, let your doctor know. Other drugs to prevent malaria need to be started only 1–2 days before you leave. Since none of the drugs is 100% effective, you will also need to take steps to avoid mosquito bites.

Health Counseling

Not all diseases can be prevented with vaccines or pills. Your doctor will also talk to you about other precautions you should take, such as:

Wearing insect repellent
Being careful about what you eat and drink
Staying away from animals
• Avoiding injuries and being safe
• Packing a travel health kit

If you’re planning an international trip, don’t put off making an appointment with a travel medicine specialist. However, even if you’re leaving tomorrow, you should still go to the doctor to get the medicine and advice you need to help you have a safe and healthy trip.