All Affordable Care Act health plans include 21 preventive care services that are covered 100 percent by health insurance as long as you go to an in-network provider. That means no copay, no deductible and no coinsurance. Examples include cancer screenings, annual physicals and other screenings that help minimize long-term health risks and/or focus on early detection when treatment protocols work best. Yet, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Americans use these preventive services at only half the rate available.

Forgoing preventive health care is one reason why Americans spend so much on health care services. The CDC reported recently that treating chronic diseases that are often preventable such as type-2 diabetes accounts for 86 percent of the nation’s health costs. More importantly, these statistics mean we’re sicker than we need to be, which impacts our quality of life, as well as contributes to higher health insurance premiums. 

What can employers do?

Start by educating employees of the health insurance plan’s preventive benefits and provide time away from work to complete the assessments. The scheduled time away will pay for itself in spades with lower health plan utilization and unexpected absenteeism. Help them understand how prevalent chronic health conditions are among Americans. As of 2012, half of all adults had one or more chronic health conditions according to the CDC, and it’s only getting worse. It’s vital that employees get screened for heart disease, arthritis, cancers, diabetes, etc.

The reality, however, is most employees don’t know all the preventive health screenings available to them through the employer-sponsored health insurance plan. Let’s review them and then look at effective ways you can communicate them to your employees.

  1. Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm screening (for men who have smoked)
  2. Alcohol abuse screening and counseling
  3. Aspirin use
  4. Blood pressure screening
  5. Cholesterol screening
  6. Colorectal cancer screening
  7. Depression screening
  8. Type 2 Diabetes screening
  9. Diet counseling
  10. Falls prevention
  11. Hepatitis B screening
  12. Hepatitis C screening
  13. HIV screening
  14. A variety of immunization vaccines
  15. Lung cancer screening
  16. Obesity screening and counseling
  17. Sexually transmitted infection prevention
  18. Statin preventive medication
  19. Syphilis screening
  20. Tobacco use screening
  21. Tuberculosis screening

Knowing that chronic diseases lead to 7 out of every 10 deaths and account for 75 percent of the nation’s health care costs is reason enough to encourage employees to maximize their preventive health benefits. You can do this by asking employees to comply with the health insurance company’s annual health assessment. It’s often just a simple online questionnaire that helps the insurance company identify early risk factors.

Other ideas to increase use of preventive health care benefits include:

At Partners Benefit Group, our goal is to help employers manage the costs of their health insurance plans. While we can’t predict the health care needs of employees, we can encourage them to best care for themselves. Have additional questions? Please talk with your PBG representative.