Critics raise eyebrows over 'free' preventative care

Free preventative care is not always free, according to Republicans who are ripping on the administration for marketing Medicare's preventative services as cost-free to patients, American Medical News reported.

Under the healthcare law passed in 2010, Medicare waives the patient's copay or deductible for certain preventive screenings, but instead taxpayers eat the costs, according to GOP senators who addressed Health & Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius in a letter this month.

"More than 40 cents of each Medicare dollar comes directly from current taxpayers each year through general revenue," GOP senators wrote.

The preventative services marketed as free can be confusing for patients and even providers. For example, a patient recently wrote to the Los Angeles Times, asking why her provider's office didn't know if the patient had to pay a copay for a physical.

The patient's question mirrors some national confusion on the healthcare law. A December poll from Kaiser Family Foundation found that 42 percent of Americans are unsure of how health reform affects them.

More than 25.7 million American in traditional Medicare used one or more free preventative services in 2011, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services said in report released this week.

"Assuming that Medicare Advantage beneficiaries utilized preventive services at the same rate as beneficiaries in traditional Medicare, an estimated 32.5 million beneficiaries benefited from Medicare's coverage of prevention with no cost sharing," the report states.

To learn more:
- read the amednews article
- here's the LA Times column
- see the Kaiser poll (.pdf)
- here's the CMS report (.pdf)
- check out the preventative care section of the website

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