WEDNESDAY, July 14 (HealthDay News) -- New private health plans must cover preventive services such as blood pressure tests and cancer screenings with no cost-sharing requirements for consumers, according to new U.S. regulations issued Wednesday.
Included in these services are basic tests such as blood pressure, diabetes and cholesterol checks, many cancer screenings, routine vaccinations, prenatal care and regular wellness checkups for infants and children. The new rules are designed to make access to these services easier, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
The new regulations do not affect existing health insurance plans but are expected to impact 88 million Americans in the future, according to a key presidential adviser.
"Today's rule really represents a fundamental shift about what it means to have health insurance coverage," Nancy-Ann DeParle, director of the White House Office of Health Reform, said during an afternoon news conference.
"We are shifting from health insurance coverage, meaning coverage for sickness, to ... coverage to keep you well," she added.
The goal of the new regulations, the latest in a series of reforms enacted under the health-reform legislation signed by President Barack Obama in March, is to remove cost as a barrier to preventive care, officials said.
"Often, because of costs, Americans use preventative services at about half the recommended rate," Stephanie Cutter, assistant to the President for special projects, said during the news conference. "Twelve percent of children have not had a doctor's visit in the past year [or] received recommended care less than half the time," she said.
And she added, chronic diseases, such as cancer, diabetes and heart disease, are responsible for seven out of 10 deaths each year and account for 75 percent of the nation's health-care spending.
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