Prevention in the Health Act

When President Obama signed health-care reform into law late last month, most media coverage focused on the bill’s central provisions of prohibiting the denial of insurance coverage based on preexisting conditions, providing subsidies to make insurance affordable, and requiring that nearly all Americans have insurance coverage by 2014. But the 906 pages of the act contain numerous other grants and programs, some of which could have a far-reaching impact.


A recent article in The New York Times outlines preventive health initiatives that were included in the act. One provision of the act requires chain restaurants with 20 or more branches to display calorie information on their menus and to provide brochures with more detailed nutrition information upon request. Another provision allows employers to give employees rewards equaling up to 30% of the cost of weight-loss, smoking-cessation, or other wellness programs they participate in. Companies with 50 or more employees must give mothers time to pump breast milk, a measure aimed to encourage capitalizing on the preventive health benefits of breastfeeding. Some other provisions are more directly related to medical care: Insurers are required to fully cover all screenings recommended by the United States Preventive Services Task Force (a government-assembled panel of independent experts), and Medicare enrollees will have an “annual wellness visit” covered.

One provision that drew vocal opposition is a five-year, $5 billion “prevention and public health fund” that will provide grants to local governments and community groups. Senator Tom Coburn, Republican of Oklahoma, denounced it as a “slush fund” for “pork barrel projects.” And while Democrats largely claim that the array of preventive health measures in the bill could significantly reduce health care costs (see a clip of Senator Charles Schumer, Democrat of New York, use diabetes as an example below), the director of the Congressional Budget Office maintains that while the programs might have health benefits, they are likely to cost at least as much as they save.

What do you think — do these programs seem like worthwhile health investments? Are you willing to have your tax dollars support programs that may improve the community’s health but will not necessarily have any effect on your personal health? Should more restrictive measures have been included in the act, such as a tax on sugary beverages to help pay for expanded health coverage? Should preventive health be a priority even if it does not save the health-care system money? Leave a comment below!

Learn more about the health and medical experts who who provide you with the cutting-edge resources, tools, news, and more on Diabetes Self-Management.
About Our Experts >>

  • sisiay

    I think rather than looking at more taxes on things like sodas, we need to have a more health-focused agriculture policy. if we don’t want to encourage eating foods with unhealthy consequences (simple carbs, factory meat, etc) then we should stop subsidizing the crops that make these harmful calories the cheapest and most accessible food in the country. People’s food choices are significantly affected by cost, and right now the government incentivizes people to make poor nutrition choices by ensuring that processed, high fructose (and other simple, corn/soy based ingredients) are less expensive than whole grains, fresh fruits, and vegetables. That’s not a fact of nature, it’s a fact of agriculture policy, and it has a tremendous affect on the health of our population,and therefore on the costs of health care.

  • Susan Warren

    What “sisiay” has said here is the most intelligent thing I’ve heard above all the din. This would be truly affecting change of the [sick] system rather then shooting bullets at the negatives and attack symptoms.
    Let’s elect this person to Congress!

  • Dale Pettiner

    Basically, it is just another excuse to substantially expand federal bureacracy and continue the ultra-liberal takeover of the American economy.

  • Joanna Santostefano

    We have been taken advantage again by big government. Obama’s medical plan is another plan to stick the tax payer and bring us socialism into our lives. GOD help us.

  • Vonnie De Rico

    I am happy with my insurance now. I have diabetes but I had always been able to get insurance because I work. I have also been self-employed and obtained insurance. For the truly disabled, there is disability insurance. There is also Medicaid if you really can’t or do not want to work. I think it will be a drain on the truly productive members of society.

  • Alex Rounds

    I’m getting tired of the mantra of the thoughtless – ‘We’re heading for the Nanny State’ and ‘They’re selling America down the creek,’ and ‘Oh how the taxpayers are going to suffer.’

    Look, you might have great insurance now. I did once. I lost that job. And the next job had OK insurance, but because the insurance companies were able to make a group of the 100 employees instead of the million or so of their customers, the insurance rates went up when one of our employees developed a brain tumor with complications. This was five years ago. That company closed.

    So now self-employed with no insurance for the past five years, my ability to purchase the medications my doctor prescribed has been limited. And so have my doctor visits.

    I am reluctant to even think about utilizing the available Welfare benefits, after all – that’s for the poor. But in this financial downturn three industries have seen huge profits; petroleum and energy, pharmaceutical manufacturers and insurance companies. These all need better oversight and regulation. This is why I applaud President Obama’s efforts.

  • Shawn Selch

    As somene who is currently going through some of the job uphevial coused by our economic downturn I think this is important legislation.I have insurance though my wife and am able to get my supplies.I think anything we can do to help get peaple healthier is a good thing. It is not just teaching kids what to eat,It is making sure our schools serve good meals that are not processed. that parents learn how to serve good healthy meals to kids and families.That we all get out and exercise more.if grants help peaple to do this.GREAT.The long term effects will be for the better of all of us.

  • James D.Taylor

    As a lifelong 50 year old Type 1 diabetic there isn’t much in the way of prevention that could benefit me.
    That said, I see no reason a tax shouldn’t be added to high sugar soft drinks and garbage foods like potato chips.
    All you libertarians out there might be having a conniption about that but before you do visit the local school yards and look at the number of “chronically obese” kids out during break. Yes other factors come into play. Chief among them the fact that actual physical exercize (outdoor play) has been replaced by video games and computer screens as the primary means of after school activity.
    Our nation has long taxed substances that have a social cost to the society at large beyond just that born by the users of those substances, primarily alcohol and tobacco. The cost the non-users bear are higher costs of health care services/insurance for all citizens because of the actions/decisions of a few.
    If higher taxes can be applied to these “adult products” to offset their costs to the society as a whole, why not try and afford our children the same benefits that are derived from those higher taxes by stemming the burgeoning numbers of chronically and morbidly obese children and the rise in Type 2 diabetes associated with that increase.
    James D.Taylor

  • Dennis Spencer

    Our medical out of pocket costs for 2009 was $18,000, our income $30,000; that tells you where we stand.

    I do a prayer ministry and get hundreds of requests for prayer for jobs that provide health insurance as these requesters have medical problems, no insurance and are unable to get treatment.

    The republicans have spent 8 years making the rich richer and the sick sicker. We need a change.

    I do not like brand name meds getting an extension from 7 to 12 years. That means 5 more years of having to pay $175 for Nexium. I ended up in the hospital last month because I could not afford my Nexium. I am out of the hospital now and using affordable generics which do not work as good. Like to know which politician got the 5 year extension in exhange for his vote.

    Thank for listening to my complaining.


  • Donna C

    What most of us are missing is that the Health Care Reform Act isn’t really about healthcare. For example, in this Act, the federal government takes over the college loan business. This has nothing to do with healthcare. There are many other examples like this. The bill is too expensive and does not accomplish its stated objective. It should be repealed!

  • Bev

    My insurance that I have currently is great, but I always worry about the what if… I lose my job, I control my Type 1 with a pump and have other medications for other related complications. I don’t know what I’d do if I wasn’t able to still get the medications/supplies that I need to control my Type 1.

    I think however, the legislation for prevention of diabetes (Pre and Type 2) is on the right track. That means the overweight, potenial diabetics need to get off the couch and do something about it. Eat better and exercise. I love the idea that restaurants will be required to post calories/nutritional facts for us, regardless of what type you are.

    I personally hope that they continue with reform with life insurance too. How many of you can only get life insurance because you have it with your employer? Have you ever tried to get it on your own? I have… because of my pre-existing conditiion (and I’m a very healthy Type 1) I can’t get other life insurance. I’m probably healthier than over 90% of the people that currently have a life insurance policy.