July 12, 1999


“It makes no sense for Medicare to put up roadblocks to screenings and then turn around and pick up the hospital bills its screenings might have avoided. No one should have to undergo a dangerous surgical procedure that could have been prevented by a simple test. No senior should have to hesitate to get the preventive care they need.”
President Bill Clinton
July 10, 1999

Saturday, in his weekly radio address, President Clinton highlighted the importance of improving Medicare’s preventive services benefits as part of his overall plan to strengthen and modernize Medicare for the 21st Century. Recognizing that preventive services can avert serious health problems and higher Medicare costs, the President has proposed to eliminate financial barriers to these critical services; educate beneficiaries about the importance and availability of these services; and test the cost-effectiveness and scientific merits of additional preventive services.

Recognizing the Importance of Preventive Services. Older Americans are the fastest growing age group in the United States, and carry the greatest risk of developing chronic disease and disability. About 88 percent of those over the age of 65 have at least one chronic health condition, many of which are preventable. Early detection can significantly reduce morbidity and possibly prevent functional disability.

Improving Access to Preventive Benefits. Currently, Medicare charges beneficiaries for 20 percent of the cost of some preventive services, while others count towards the Medicare deductible. Studies have found that this cost sharing decreases the use of preventive benefits for all age groups, and that Medicare preventive services are underutilized. In addition, most Medicare beneficiaries don’t know that Medicare covers preventive benefits; almost 70 percent of beneficiaries who stated that they knew about the range of Medicare services did not know about all of the preventive benefits Medicare covers.

The President’s proposal to modernize the Medicare benefits package would address these concerns by investing about $3 billion over 10 years to make preventive services more affordable; educate beneficiaries about the importance and availability of these services; and evaluate the value and cost-effectiveness of new services. Specifically, it would:

Improving Medicare’s preventive services benefits is a key part of President Clinton’s plan to strengthen and modernize Medicare for the 21st century.

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