According to a new report from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Americans are three times more likely to avail of at least 1 of 9 preventive healthcare services for chronic diseases if they have health insurance. Whether the surveyed individuals maintained private or Medicaid/Medicare insurance did not affect the CDC’s findings. The survey is available in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report dated July 17.
“Having insurance was the most important factor, whether it was private or public insurance,” said lead author Jared Fox, a CDC health scientist.
The 10 most common causes of death in the U.S. include heart disease, cancer, stroke, diabetes, suicide, and communicable diseases (i.e. influenza, pneumonia, hepatitis), for which Americans can receive preventive health services. These services include screening, and early diagnostics, to help physicians catch them at a stage when they are most treatable. Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, more Americans have become more active in seeking out preventive care.
“Preventive screening helps detect diseases at an earlier stage when treatments may not need to be so aggressive for cure,” said Dr. Stephanie Bernik, chief of surgical oncology at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.
The CDC researchers gathered and analyzed data from 2011 and 2012 U.S. National Health Interview Surveys, which gave them an idea of how many, out of 67,500 people across the country, availed of the 9 types of preventive care. These services include: blood pressure, diabetes and cholesterol checks; screening for breast, colon and cervical cancer; diet counseling; and vaccination for either hepatitis A or B.
They found that having insurance greatly influenced people’s decisions to receive preventive health. Women, for example, were nearly thrice more likely to undergo a mammogram if it was covered by their health insurance. Insured individuals were also found to be twice more likely to avail of nutrition counseling, and cholesterol and diabetes screening.
Household income was also considered in the study. Americans who earned over 200% of the federal poverty level were more likely to avail of these services. The most easily observed example consisted in the observation that 43% of women were found more likely to seek out breast cancer screening if they earned higher incomes.
These observations lead Fox to believe that the more people are insured, the better the numbers will be for preventive healthcare in the country. “In other insurance expansion situations, people previously uninsured who received insurance coverage were more likely to receive recommended preventive care,” he said.
“Access to health care is an important part of getting people screened, but it is not enough because even people with insurance often fail to undergo recommended screening,” Bernik added. “Education needs to play a large part in ensuring patients are going for screening.”