by Mimi Johnson, NCL Health Policy Associate
Taking center stage in Washington, DC and across the country these days is health reform, which presents an opportunity to afford all Americans access to preventive services. With its largest supporter now absent, Senator Kennedy’s legacy as a champion for a healthier America will be felt as discussions ensue. Senator Kennedy, and the HELP Committee he led for so many years, produced the first health reform bill earlier this summer, packed with expanded preventive services and opportunities for health promotion – including resources for public-private partnerships to help educate consumers about health and safety issues.
Senator Kennedy felt all Americans had a right to health care. He increased access to care by creating and improving such important programs as Medicare and Medicaid, and the Americans with Disabilities Act. Kennedy advocated that everyone have the opportunity to use the same government insurance he was afforded as a Member of Congress.
While I do not have access to the same insurance Senator Kennedy had, I am fortunate enough to have coverage. In fact, I recently had the luxury of visiting my primary care physician, something millions of Americans go without year after year. Because I am afforded the opportunity for an annual well-visit, I see it as my duty to go. I am, however, in the minority. A study by the University of Pittsburgh and RAND found that only 1/5th of the US population receive an annual preventive health exam.
The importance of primary care and prevention to our overall health, and the sustainability of our health care system, is too great to put a price tag on. In fact, just look back at our recent post about the free medical clinic in LA; the long lines show that people recognize the need to check-in and get a check-up. It is very important that we not only have access to a check-up, but that we all have the ability to check-in with a health care professional who can talk with us about our life – ranging from our diet and exercise, to stress, and the medications we are on or allergies we have.
If you are lucky enough to have insurance – take advantage of it and schedule your annual check-up and check-in with your health professional.
And thanks to Senator Kennedy for all of his hard work to make this country a healthier place.