White House launches new preventive health campaign

White House launches new preventive health campaign
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The Obama administration is announcing Thursday a new preventive health campaign, aimed at helping people who are newly insured under ObamaCare as well as others, better understand and use their coverage.

The public awareness initiative, called “Healthy Self,” is intended to help people know about and use the preventive services that are available for free under the Affordable Care Act. It also encourages healthy decisions outside of the doctor’s office, like a good diet and quitting smoking. 

The idea is that gaining coverage is not the end of the line. 

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“Coverage is an important step, and it gets a lot of attention, but it’s only one piece of the puzzle,” Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell will say in a speech Thursday announcing the initiative. “How we get people to use their coverage has the potential to create healthier communities, discover illnesses earlier on when they’re easier to treat, and drive down health costs across the system.”

The administration says 16 million people have gained coverage under the Affordable Care Act, and 137 million are guaranteed free preventive coverage because of the law. 

“Let’s face it, understanding our benefits can be confusing for anyone, especially those who have coverage for the first time in their lives,” Burwell will say. “Many people still don’t know that these protections and preventive services are now guaranteed by the Affordable Care Act.”

The administration is looking to encourage preventive steps like blood pressure screenings, vaccinations, contraception and obesity counseling, which are all available free to the patient under ObamaCare. 

As part of the effort, Burwell will travel to Wisconsin on Monday for the first of 50 outreach events through August. 

Much of the outreach will also be digital. aimed at young people who could feel they don’t need to go to the doctor. The administration will encourage people to post a “#HealthySelfie” on social media, which it says could include a shot of someone working out, eating fruits or going to a checkup.  

The administration will partner with companies working towards similar goals. For example, it partnered with CVS to use an online HealthFinder tool that lets people learn about preventive services. 

On the White House end of the initiative, senior adviser Valerie Jarrett will be reaching out to healthcare providers and hospital associations to promote the preventive services. 

The new initiative adds to one launched last year called Coverage to Care, aimed at helping people new to insurance use their coverage. 

Republicans argue ObamaCare has failed in its goal to reduce the reliance on emergency rooms for care. 

Burwell says these initiatives will help educate people about other care options. 

“As we saw people getting covered for the first time, we were seeing that people didn’t understand their benefits,” Burwell will say. “They tended to avoid preventive care because they didn’t think they needed it or were worried about cost. That led to people avoiding care until the last minute or using the most expensive option available — the Emergency Room.”

Coverage and care go together, Burwell adds: “Our efforts to connect people with care — both through access to coverage and through spreading the word about preventive services — is more important than ever.”