New Rules: New Health Plans to Provide Free Preventive Care

Janice Simmons, July 15, 2010

Under new rules announced by the White House on Wednesday, new private health plans will be required to cover preventive services—and eliminate most cost-sharing requirements—for such procedures as blood pressure, diabetes and cholesterol tests, many cancer screenings, routine vaccinations, prenatal care, and regular wellness visits for infants and children.

The new regulations, issued by the departments of Health & Human Services, Labor, and the Treasury, will be put into place on Sept. 23, 2010. New health plans beginning on or after that date must cover evidence-based preventive services that demonstrate strong health benefits. These plans may no longer charge a patient a copayment, coinsurance, or deductible for these services when they are delivered by a network provider.

"We've got a long way to go, but already you can see a more friendly health insurance market taking place," said HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, speaking at a briefing at George Washington University Medical Center. "But we knew we had to make it easier for Americans whether they had health insurance or not to get screenings, go to doctor visits, get vaccines, and keep them out of the emergency rooms and hospital beds."

"Getting access to early care and screenings will go a long way in preventing chronic illnesses like diabetes, heart disease, and high blood pressure, said First Lady Michelle Obama at the briefing. And good preventative care will also help tackle an issue that is particularly important to me as First Lady ... childhood obesity in America today. These are important tools, and now it’s up to us to use them."

Under the new regulations, "evidence based preventive services" refer to the services rated by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, an independent panel of scientific experts. These services are rated by the group based on the strength of the scientific evidence documenting their benefits.

Janice Simmons Janice Simmons is a senior editor and Washington, DC, correspondent for HealthLeaders Media Online. She can be reached at
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