Last week, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) released their annual health report for 2011, and I highly recommend you check it out—some pieces are encouraging and other parts indicate that we need to continue our efforts to improve the health of our nation. The report contains dozens of tables with information on Americans’ health, with a special focus on socio-economic status. There are a number of bright spots, alongside areas we need to work on. Luckily, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is already in place and at work improving America’s health in exactly these areas.
For example, the CDC noted the following:
We don’t have enough primary care doctors. The report notes that the South and Rocky Mountain areas of the country have about 85% of the doctors that the rest of the country has. The ACA is addressing this crucial problem through providing training and financial support to thousands of new primary care doctors, nurses, nurse practitioners, and physician’s assistants. Primary care providers paid by Medicare will also get 10% “bonus” payments and the number of community health centers will grow, increasing access to affordable primary care. In 2013, primary care providers paid by Medicaid will see an increase to the higher Medicare rates, making it fiscally easier for doctors to see Medicaid patients.
Obesity is still a major problem. Although childhood obesity rates are leveling off, they are still troublingly high. The CDC report also shows that childhood obesity is strongly correlated to the level of parental education. Luckily, the ACA has allocated funds to fight childhood obesity through teaching kids to improve their nutrition choices and encouraging more physical activity.
We’re getting better at keeping ourselves well. In 2010, almost 60% of the recommended adults had a colorectal screening, compared to 34% in 2000. The ACA is seriously working to change the culture of health care from caring for people after they’re sick to prevention and screenings. The ACA requires that health insurers, including Medicare, offer certain preventative care and screenings free of charge. Check out the list here!
Racial health disparities are narrowing. The difference between life expectancy for Caucasians and African-Americans is closing, although Hispanics still have the longest lifespans. Other health disparities include higher rates of obesity, asthma, flu, infant mortality, cancer, and heart disease in minority communities. The Affordable Care Act recognizes these disparities and is working to close the gap and make all Americans healthier through numerous advances, including increasing cultural competency among providers, adding more health care providers to underserved communities, and coordinated care organizations that will help manage chronic diseases.
The percentage of uninsured people has grown from 13% in 2000 to 16% in 2010. Nearly 1 in 6 Americans lacks health coverage—an indication of how badly this country needs the ACA. The Affordable Care Act is designed to hugely increase the number of people who are covered, both through tax subsidies for Americans under 400% of the federal poverty level to purchase private insurance and through expanding Medicaid to cover all individuals under 133% of the federal poverty level.
The CDC report contains many more charts and data on Americans’ health. Overall, the report is an excellent reminder of how far we’ve come and how far we still have to go in our work to improve the health of our people. I encourage everyone to page through the list and take a look at the reality of health in America today. The Affordable Care Act is vital to improving that reality and is already at work doing so!