Healthcare News & Insights

The other side of health reform: Increased wellness initiatives

Largely unnoticed in the run-up to the recent passage of the health reform law, President Obama also has his sights on improving programs focused on disease prevention and general wellness.

The initiatives are designed to address a number of public health issues, ranging from smoking to increased exercise — with the ultimate goal being a reduction in the number of people who need additional treatment or hospitalization later.

For example, the FDA will get new authority to regulate tobacco products, restaurants will have to provide nutritional data, and new mothers are due “reasonable” breaks for breast-feeding by their employers. A new federal program will provide communities with funds for bike paths, hiking trails and playgrounds.

Some of the programs more directly affect health care providers: Medicare and Medicaid will provide expanded coverage for things like free physicals, smoking cessation programs for pregnant women, etc. And insurance companies won’t be able to charge co-payments or deductibles for vaccines, recommended screenings and similar preventative care.

On their own, the initiatives are far less controversial than the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, as a whole. But skeptics say the increased federal spending won’t save money in the long run.

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