Unexpected Limits of New, Free Preventive Care

January 18, 2011
by Laura Landro
Wall Street Journal

Starting this year, millions more Americans will be able to get free preventive care, including hearing-loss tests for newborn babies, depression screening for adolescents and bone-density scans for women at risk of osteoporosis.

An Ounce of Prevention ...

Medicare and new private-insurance policies will be required this year to cover the cost of 45 medical tests and services currently shown to be most effective in early detection and prevention of disease, with no patient copayments or deductibles. Among the tests and preventive measures:

  • Diabetes: Adults with blood pressure above 135/80 should be screened for type 2 diabetes, even when there are no symptoms of disease.
  • Depression: All adolescents should be checked for major depressive disorders when the resources are available to ensure accurate diagnosis and treatment.
  • Aneurysm: Men ages 65 to 75 who have smoked at any time in their lives should have a one-time ultrasound screening for possible abdominal aortic aneurysm.
  • Folic-acid supplements: Women planning to get pregnant should take a daily folic-acid supplement of 0.4 mg to 0.8 mg.
  • Hearing: All newborn infants should be tested for hearing loss.
  • Sexually transmitted infections: Sexually active adolescents and adults who are at increased risk for sexually transmitted infections should receive high-intensity behavioral counseling to help prevent disease.
  • Osteoporosis: Women 65 and older, and younger women at equal or greater risk, should be routinely screened for osteoporosis.

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