Access to Preventive Care for Seniors

Seniors struggle to afford the lifesaving tests and procedures that are recommended for them to stay healthy.  Under the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the government is attempting to close the gap between the cost of care and the accessibility of preventive care.  The goal of the new legislation is to eliminate the out-of-pocket costs to seniors for many types of preventive services.  Medicare beneficiaries will also be eligible for free annual wellness check-ups and no cost cancer screenings.

Preventive tests, screenings and services recommended for all seniors include:

  • Vaccinations including an annual flu vaccine, one dose of zoster vaccine for those over 60 years and pneumococcal vaccine if not received in the past five years
  • Colorectal cancer screening-fecal occult blood testing, sigmoidoscopy or colonoscopy from age 50-75 years
  • Breast cancer screening-biennial screening from age 50-74 years
  • Osteoporosis testing-all women 65 years and older or beginning at age 60 if increased risk for osteoporotic fractures
  • Diabetes screening
  • Lipid panel testing-beginning at age 35 for men and 45 for women who have coronary heart disease risk
  • Smoking cessation counseling-everyone should be asked if they smoke and those who are smoking be given counseling for cessation
  • Cervical cancer screening
  • Blood pressure testing
  • Aspirin use-to help prevent heart attack and stroke in men aged 45-79 and women aged 55-79 when the benefit outweighs the risk of gastrointestinal bleeding
  • Screening for alcohol misuse
  • Test for depression
  • Obesity monitoring-all adults should be screened and offered behavioral counseling interventions

Under the healthcare reform act, is has been decided that the cost of these screening tests is minimal compared to the cost of treating these disorders and the number of lives that can be saved each year.

At the present time, it is estimated that 90% of Medicare beneficiaries see their doctor at least once a year and as often as six times a year.  However, many do not receive these tests during the year when they visit their doctors.  Many seniors rely on their doctors to recommend the tests they need instead of advocating for themselves.

Sometimes seniors have to overcome numerous barriers to accessing healthcare options not just the cost of these tests but obstacles such as transportation, disability, cultural barriers, fear of pain, and fear of the results.

To gain access to these important tests, seniors can attend a free health screenings in their area frequently held by a variety of providers.  Learn about the tests, what they tell you about your health and how to prevent medical occurrences will help you have a healthier future.