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Many Skip Medicare's Free Preventive Care

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Updated: 5/08/2013 1:40 pm

June 20, 2011 -- Only one in six Medicare beneficiaries have so far received any of the preventive care services now free to them due to health care reform.

To save lives -- and money -- lost to preventable diseases, the Affordable Care Act offers all Medicare beneficiaries a wide range of preventive services. These services are free with no co-pay involved.

"Our job is to make sure every single Medicare beneficiary knows about and takes advantage of these benefits. So we are announcing a multimedia approach to get the word out," Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said at a news teleconference.

The new "Share the News, Share the Health" campaign will feature TV, radio, and online ads as well as a "Dear Doctor" letter to all health care professionals who see Medicare patients.

Beginning this year, all Medicare beneficiaries are offered a free annual wellness visit. There's a wide range of other free services. Many of the most important services are listed on WebMD's printable checklist.

Services now free to most Medicare beneficiaries include:

  • A one-time "welcome to Medicare" preventive visit
  • A yearly wellness visit
  • Screening for heart disease
  • Breast cancer screening (mammograms)
  • Cervical and vaginal cancer screening
  • Prostate cancer screening
  • Flu, pneumococcal, and hepatitis B vaccines
  • Osteoporosis screening
  • Smoking cessation counseling
  • HIV screening
  • Diabetes screening
  • Medical nutrition counseling for people with diabetes or kidney disease

So far, more than 5 million Americans on Medicare have taken advantage of at least one of these free services. But that's only one in six Medicare beneficiaries.

"Having a person in Medicare go without a potentially lifesaving test because they do not know it is available at no cost is just as bad as them skipping it because they cannot afford it," Sebelius said.

A full description of the preventive care benefits can be found at the medicare.gov/share-the-health web site.

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