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Many Skip Medicare's Free Preventive Care

Many Skip Medicare's Free Preventive Care Government Urges Patients to Make Use of Free Checkups and Screenings That Are Included in Health Care Reform WebMD Medical News By Daniel J....

June 20, 2011 -- Only one in six Medicare beneficiaries have so far received any of the preventive care services now free to them due to health care reform.

To save lives -- and money -- lost to preventable diseases, the Affordable Care Act offers all Medicare beneficiaries a wide range of preventive services. These services are free with no co-pay involved.

"Our job is to make sure every single Medicare beneficiary knows about and takes advantage of these benefits. So we are announcing a multimedia approach to get the word out," Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said at a news teleconference.

The new "Share the News, Share the Health" campaign will feature TV, radio, and online ads as well as a "Dear Doctor" letter to all health care professionals who see Medicare patients.

Beginning this year, all Medicare beneficiaries are offered a free annual wellness visit. There's a wide range of other free services. Many of the most important services are listed on WebMD's printable checklist.

Services now free to most Medicare beneficiaries include:

  • A one-time "welcome to Medicare" preventive visit
  • A yearly wellness visit
  • Screening for heart disease
  • Breast cancer screening (mammograms)
  • Cervical and vaginal cancer screening
  • Prostate cancer screening
  • Flu, pneumococcal, and hepatitis B vaccines
  • Osteoporosis screening
  • Smoking cessation counseling
  • HIV screening
  • Diabetes screening
  • Medical nutrition counseling for people with diabetes or kidney disease

So far, more than 5 million Americans on Medicare have taken advantage of at least one of these free services. But that's only one in six Medicare beneficiaries.

"Having a person in Medicare go without a potentially lifesaving test because they do not know it is available at no cost is just as bad as them skipping it because they cannot afford it," Sebelius said.

A full description of the preventive care benefits can be found at the medicare.gov/share-the-health web site.

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