Volume 9 Issue 111
Published - 14:00 UTC 08:00 EST 22-Apr-2007 
Next Update - 14:00 UTC 08:00 EST 23-Apr-2007

Editor: Susan K. Boyer, RN
Vidyya.
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HHS, CMS officials kick off a 'Healthier US Starts Here' initiative  

(22 April 2007: VIDYYA MEDICAL NEWS SERVICE) -- The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) today launched "A Healthier US Starts Here," an initiative focused on motivating seniors and others with Medicare to make the most of Medicare's preventive services.

During the spring and summer, the Medicare Prevention tour bus will visit each of the 48 continental United States to promote conversations between people with Medicare, families, caregivers, health professionals, and community organizations. Many disease prevention advocates, employers, and civic and state leaders have joined our efforts to create awareness of disease prevention and wellness.

"Preventive health care can help people live healthier lives and can help reduce costs associated with treating chronic disease. From Seattle to Miami and Boston to San Diego, A Healthier US Starts Here will enlist the support of local organizations to help Medicare beneficiaries and all Americans learn how to live longer, healthier, and happier lives," HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt said.

At today's launch, Secretary Leavitt and CMS Acting Administrator Leslie V. Norwalk presented data showing that the increased use of Medicare preventive benefits can help prevent and detect chronic diseases early in their course, when they are most treatable, and can save lives. For example:

-- More than 34 million Americans have low bone mass, placing them at increased risk for osteoporosis; osteoporosis can be prevented and early diagnosis and treatment can reduce or prevent fractures from occurring.
-- Decreasing total cholesterol levels by 10 percent in the U.S. population could result in a 30 percent reduction in the incidence of coronary heart disease.
-- One pneumonia vaccine, which is free to Medicare beneficiaries, can be lifesaving -- yet only about two thirds of those with Medicare report receiving the service and 46,700 U.S. adults die annually from vaccine preventable diseases.

"A Healthier US Starts Here" will also teach people how to make the most of the CMS web site, http://www.mymedicare.gov/. This is a one-stop, user- friendly web site that gives registered Medicare users access to personalized information on benefits and services.

When beneficiaries log on, they can check which preventive benefits they need; check their Part B deductible status; view eligibility and enrollment information -- including for the Part D prescription drug program; and take care of administrative issues such as verifying an address, ordering replacement Medicare cards, check on the status of claims, and get online forms and publications. People with Medicare can also get this information by calling 1-800-Medicare.

"Many beneficiaries are unaware that Medicare covers preventive screenings and other benefits, sometimes at no cost. New demands will be placed on the Medicare system as vast numbers of baby boomers begin reaching Medicare eligibility. The health of our beneficiaries and the health of the Medicare Trust Fund are going to depend ever more on good prevention programs," said Acting Administrator Norwalk.

Medicare currently covers:

-- One time "Welcome to Medicare" physical (including an abdominal aortic aneurysm screening)
-- Cardiovascular screenings
-- Smoking cessation counseling
-- Cancer tests - mammogram screening for breast cancer, pap test and pelvic exam screenings for cervical and vaginal cancer, colorectal cancer screenings, and prostate cancer screening
-- Shots and vaccines - flu, Pneumococcal, Hepatitis B
-- Bone mass measurement
-- Diabetes screening, glucose monitoring supplies, and self-management training
-- Medical nutrition therapy for people with diabetes or kidney disease
-- Glaucoma test

"The unprecedented efforts of our local and national partners have helped ensure that 38 million Americans -- more than 90 percent of people with Medicare -- have prescription drug coverage. Community-based outreach, individual counseling, and compassionate support for beneficiaries and caregivers enabled people to choose the drug coverage that was right for them. We're using the same strategy to reach millions of people with Medicare about the importance of prevention -- one person at a time," said Acting Administrator Norwalk.

In addition to community partners, an array of HHS agencies are participating in the A Healthier US Starts Here initiative, including the Office of Minority Health, the President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports, the Office on Women's Health, the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, the Office on Disability, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Institutes of Health, the Health Resources and Services Administration, and the Agency on Healthcare Research and Quality.

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