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AARP The Magazine

Preventive Care May Be ACA’s Greatest Achievement

AARP President Jeannine English

Jeannine English, AARP President — Eli Meir Kaplan

Hello, everyone! I'm proud to be AARP's 25th president. I had a long career in the California state government, concluding with a 10-year run as executive director of an agency that reviews and evaluates state government programs and services. Later I served as AARP California state president.

I'd like to begin this series of columns by reminding you of one of the most important features of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). I'm talking about free preventive care (such as screenings and immunizations) for Americans of all ages through both Medicare and most private insurance plans.

Under the ACA, Medicare now covers an annual wellness visit and preventive care at no extra cost to you. This includes cancer, cholesterol and diabetes screenings, as well as immunizations. And the ACA also requires most private insurance plans to cover recommended preventive care without charge.

We have no way of knowing how many mothers will not die of breast cancer because a free screening found it in time; how many fathers will live to see their grandchildren instead of dying of a heart attack, because a free screening discovered high blood pressure and further tests revealed coronary artery disease; or how many children will be spared pain and suffering because a free immunization prevented measles, hepatitis or some other serious disease.

But here are some numbers we do have:

  • Under the ACA, 71 million Americans pay nothing out of pocket for preventive screenings, because their private insurance covers the tests.
  • In 2013, an estimated 37.2 million people covered by Medicare received one or more preventive services at no cost to them beyond their monthly Medicare premium.

In plain English, the odds are strong that the Affordable Care Act will, in some way, provide significant benefits to most Americans. You owe it to yourselves, your families and your businesses to do all you can to learn about the ACA, find out what's in it that will help you, and make it work to your advantage.

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