Insured Patients Much More Likely to Receive Preventive Care

Patients with any type of health insurance receive preventive care for chronic diseases at rates up to 3 times higher than their uninsured counterparts, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has found.

Patients with any type of health insurance receive preventive care for chronic diseases at rates up to 3 times higher than their uninsured counterparts, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has found.

Using 2011 and 2012 National Health Interview Survey data on more than 67,500 individuals in the United States, CDC researchers reviewed preventive care uptake for some of the country’s leading causes of death, including heart disease, cancer, and diabetes.

The preventive care services considered were blood pressure, cholesterol, and diabetes screenings; breast, cervical, and colon cancer checks; diet counseling; and hepatitis A or B vaccination.

Across all of these, health insurance coverage of any kind was the main indicator for whether an individual had received the service.

The researchers attributed this to 2 different aspects of the Affordable Care Act (ACA): the requirement for everyone in the United States to have health insurance, and the mandate for insurers to provide preventive services without a co-pay, deductible, or out-of-pocket cost of any kind.

These findings “could serve as a baseline for tracking the effects of some of the ACA’s preventive care provisions that might occur after 2012,” the authors wrote. “Since the ACA began to require certain plans to cover [these] services as early as September 2010, the data…might include some of the early impact of the law.”

But blanket insurance is not enough to ensure that all patients are offered or using preventive services, the researchers noted.

“Greater awareness of ACA provisions among the public, public health professionals, partners, and health care providers might help increase the receipt of recommended services,” they wrote.

Study co-author Jared Fox, PhD, of the CDC’s Office of the Associate Director for Policy exclusively told Pharmacy Times that pharmacists can help disseminate this information, as he noted that the US Department of Health and Human Services “recognizes pharmacists as key partners in a comprehensive prevention program.”

“Pharmacists provide a friendly and convenient venue for many patients who might otherwise have trouble getting recommended care,” Dr. Fox explained. “If pharmacists are able to provide evidence-based preventive services to patients, that could help to increase the number of people receiving recommended preventive care.”

Increased levels of preventive care could improve overall population health, which could in turn lead to future decreases in chronic disease management spending nationwide, the researchers noted.

This study appeared in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.