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Medicare Increases Coverage Of Preventive Services

Armen Hareyan's picture

Fewer than 10% of Medicare beneficiaries receive recommended healthscreening and immunizations, even as Medicare increasingly is coveringpreventive services, according to CMS, the Wall Street Journalreports. About 5% of Medicare spending is on preventive services, butCMS in recent years has authorized more spending on screenings andimmunizations amid mounting evidence about the cost effectiveness ofprevention, officials say.

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Herb Kuhn, CMS acting deputyadministrator, said, "It is a fundamental change in the way Medicarethinks," adding, "We are trying to devote the same energy to people tostay healthy as we do to treating disease." According to the Journal,Medicare this year began covering ultrasound screenings for aorticaneurysms in at-risk beneficiaries, and over the last five years begancovering glaucoma screenings, medical-nutrition therapy, cardiovascularand diabetic screenings, and smoking- and tobacco-cessation counseling.

The program also covers vaccines for flu, pneumonia andhepatitis B; mammograms; cervical and prostate cancer tests;bone-density screenings; and diabetes self-management training. Inaddition, since 2005, Medicare has covered an initial comprehensivephysical examination for new beneficiaries. Preventive services may befully covered by Medicare or available for a copayment, depending onthe type of coverage a beneficiary has.

To increase awarenessabout its coverage of health screenings, Medicare officials launched anationwide bus tour of 48 states over the summer, with stops in morethan 120 cities. The tour is expected to wrap up this week (McQueen, Wall Street Journal, 8/28).

Reprinted with permission from kaisernetwork.org. Youcan view the entire Kaiser DailyHealth Policy Report, search the archives, and sign up for email deliveryat kaisernetwork.org/email. The Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report is published for kaisernetwork.org, afree service of The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.