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New insurance plans required to cover some preventive care, health screenings without cost-sharing

A mix of preventive care and screening services will become free to consumers, under the Affordable Care Act, which became law in March.

Under the new rule, services like blood pressure, diabetes and cholesterol tests, cancer screenings, routine vaccinations and well-baby visits will be provided without requiring the consumer to pony up a deductible, co-pay or co-insurance, said HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius at a star-studded press conference in D.C. that included first lady Michelle Obama and second lady Dr. Jill Biden. "Services like these will go a long way in preventing chronic illnesses that consume over 75 percent of the health care spending in this country," Obama said.

All new private health insurance plans with plan years beginning on or after September 23, 2010, will be required to cover recommended preventive services delivered by a network provider without cost-sharing. Many large company plans, which offer solid preventive benefits, will be exempt from the requirements for the now, the Associated Press reports.
"Too many people aren't getting the checkups and screenings they need to catch a disease like cancer in the early stages so it can be treated," Biden said.

The services are designed to prevent much of the chronic illness that consumes three out of every $4 spent on healthcare in the U.S.

While better preventive care may be designed to cut costs downstream, it still carries an upfront cost. Premiums will go up by 1.5 percent on average, as spending for the services is spread across the pool of insured people.

Whether the public unveiling of these free healthcare services will help the administration fare better in the public mind remains to be seen. Nearly half of Americans (49 percent) said they disapprove of the healthcare reform law, according to a CBS poll conducted in early July.

To learn more:
- read the regulation
- read the Associated Press story
- see the Washington Post blog post
- watch video of the press conference and read Sebelius's blog
- here are the CBS poll numbers

Related Stories:
Less-publicized changes in the new health overhaul law that take effect soon

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