Thursday, May 20, 2010

Guest Commentary: Public Health will Benefit from Health Care Reform Legislation

Rob Simmons, DrPH, MPH, CHES, CPH
Director, MPH Program
Jefferson School of Population Health

After over a year of national debate and discussion, earlier this spring President Obama signed into law The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and its accompanying law, the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010. Whatever one’s view of the law’s global impact on health care in the US and the cost for the provision of such care, it is very clear that public health and health promotion will be positively impacted by the new law.

Some of the highlights of the new health law include:

• Expanded prevention benefits in private insurance policies, Medicare, and Medicaid that cover annual wellness visits, a personalized prevention plan, and evidenced-based health screening services with no deductibles and co-pays
• Risk reduction services including weight management, nutrition services, physical activity incentives, and smoking cessation
• Grants to small businesses to provide worksite-based wellness programs and services
• Chronic disease prevention and management services in such areas as diabetes control and obesity prevention
• Public health infrastructure and workforce recruitment and retention programs
• Training for mid-career public and allied health professionals
• Expansion of community health centers and a national health service corps
• Oral health public education campaign and demonstration projects
• Increased emphasis on breastfeeding
• Nutrition labeling of standard menu items in all chain restaurants
• Enhanced drug coverage for seniors by closing the “donut hole” for Medicare Part D
• Increased grants for college education that will help to expand the public health and healthcare workforce and increase its diversity

The public health provisions of the new law did not receive much media attention compared to other components of the health reform law. Yet, they will provide much-needed services for public health and preventive health that have been reduced over the past decade. Speaking as a member of the public health community, it could not have come soon enough.