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Taking Advantage of Preventive Care Under Health Care Reform

by Rajiv Narayan (Roosevelt Campus Network)

If there is one distinguishing characteristic amongst college students in this country, its that we love free stuff. Across the University of California system, you can tell school is kicking off this week with the minefield of booths planted by student organizations to reward your attention with free food, free bags, free school supplies, free books, and more. I would be lying if I didnt admit to showing up at conferences and meetings and events just for the swag.

Soon, Ill be heading to a new location for the freebies my local health care clinic.

Under the auspices of The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, all new plans starting on or after September 23, 2010 must cover a range of preventive care services free of charge. For free, you can get: diabetes, blood pressure and cholesterol tested, screened for cancer, counseling to quit smoking, lose weight, fight depression, eat healthy, and reduce your alcohol use. You can get free flu shots and services to prevent pneumonia, mammograms, pap smears, colon cancer screening tests, and pregnancy counseling. Until age 21, you can also get a free well-child check up.

Aside for the inherent joy of free giveaways, theres a compelling case to take advantage of preventive care.

Chronic diseases amenable to prevention account for seven in ten deaths annually. Three-quarters of our health care costs are the result of chronic diseases. Only one in eight children visit a doctor at least once a year. If we all take seriously the opportunities afforded by health care reform to prevent disease, what we also do is prevent early deaths and reduce the taxpayer burden of health care costs.

We already think it’s a good deal to walk through the quad for a bag of free – let’s face it – junk we’ll probably never use again. Let’s take care of something that matters, our health, for the same price. Trust me, it’s worth it.