The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) announced Monday that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) allowed more than 1.1 million Californian Medicare beneficiaries to receive at least one free preventive care service during the first five months of 2012.
Nationally, that number was at just under 14.3 million.
"Thanks to the health care law, millions of Americans are getting cancer screenings, mammograms and other preventive services for free," said Marilyn Tavenner, acting administrator of the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services, in a statement. "These free preventive services are helping people in Medicare stay healthy and lower their health care costs."
Medicare, a federal health insurance system for seniors and certain younger people with disabilities, began providing free preventive benefits to its senior beneficiaries under a provision of the ACA in 2011.
The ACA also added the free Annual Wellness Visit to Medicare in 2011. HHS said of the 1 million-plus Medicare beneficiaries in California who received preventive care, more than 89,000 of them were through the Annual Wellness Visit.
Some of the preventive services that qualify under the provision include tobacco-use cessation counseling, screenings for ailments like diabetes; cervical, breast and prostate cancer; heart health problems and HIV. Previously to the implementation of the ACA, says HHS, beneficiaries faced cost-sharing – and thus a much heavier financial burden – if they wanted to take advantage of these screenings and measures.
But trends like this may be short-lived. The Supreme Court is due to make a decision on the constitutionality of the ACA sometime this month. The case against the legislation focuses primarily on the individual mandate and the expansion of Medicaid.
In March, Loyola Law School professor Brietta Clark, who specializes in health care law and access issues, told OnCentral that she would be "surprised if they struck down the entire law." But she's wary of making any definitive predictions.
If the entire ACA were to somehow be struck down, executive director of the Southside Coalition of Community Health Centers Nina Vaccaro says that would be "devastating" for South Los Angeles.
Photo by Montecruz Foto via Flickr Creative Commons.