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The Prevention Fund- Changing the Philosophy of American Health Care?

Jun 5th, 2013

the prevention fund

Credit: Quinn Dombrowski via Flickr

What is the Affordable Care Act’s Prevention and Public Health Fund? It’s actually been in the news a fair bit lately.

When the Affordable Care Act was signed into law in March 2010 it created a fund that was expected to invest $15 billion dollars over its first 10 years towards improving public health, called the “Prevention and Public Health Fund.”

In April the department of Health and Human Services announced plans to withdraw $476 million from the fund for outreach to help people enroll in the federal health insurance exchanges.

The fund has suffered because of sequestration, and its investment has been cut by 40 percent. Currently the total of the fund stands at less than a billion dollars at $949 million.

So why do I care about improving public health?

Look, let’s be frank for a moment, we Americans have a health problem. Chronic diseases like heart disease and diabetes are on the rise. Most of these diseases stem from our nation’s obesity epidemic that is making life worse for millions of children and adults.

Of the (exorbitant) $2.7 trillion that the U.S. spends on health care every year, 70 percent of that money goes towards treating these chronic diseases. Only 3 percent goes towards preventing them in the first place.

That’s a pretty grim picture, but the good news is that these diseases are mostly the result of poor lifestyle choices. It’s possible to mitigate, prevent, or even eliminate these problems for most people through better choices, i.e. diet, exercise, and education.

Now this is where the Prevention Fund comes in. It provides funding to states for different projects all related to preventative health care. This could mean anything from improving transit infrastructure through bike lanes and sidewalks to education programs about healthy foods. To date, the fund has provided over $290 million to local municipalities for their programs.

For example in Virginia the fund provided grants to improve the state’s IT infrastructure, which saved money and increased Medicaid enrollment.

In Iowa fund money was used to expand the amount of dentists’ offices that are also able to test for blood pressure and tobacco use. Iowa also used fund money to improve its rural communities and make them more accessible for walkers and bike riders.

The prevention fund is another way that the Affordable Care Act aims to change the “philosophy” (so to speak) of American health care. The goal is a shift away from treating the symptoms and moving towards addressing the disease head on through preventing it in the first place.

Another way the Care Act is doing this is through requiring insurance companies to cover preventative care treatments like regular checkups, with no out of pocket expense for patients.

Whether the Care Act’s focus on preventative health care will ultimately be successful remains to be seen. Republican lawmakers have already taken aim at the preventative fund through sequestration and will likely try to eliminate it altogether.

As with most things concerning health care reform, time will tell.

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