Affordable Care Act: Helping Americans Stay Active and Independent as They Age

03/21/2011 12:45 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011
  • Jeffrey Levi Associate professor of health policy, George Washington University; Executive Director, Trust for America's Health

Aging can be hard. The aches and pains start to add up -- and a lifetime of calories, cholesterol, and time spent sitting on the couch catches up with us.

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) includes some new measures that can help us be more active and independent as we age -- and make our Golden Years more golden.

As of January 1, 2011, Medicare now covers an annual wellness visit to make it easier for seniors to visit their physician for a check-up. This provision allows physicians to work with Medicare patients to develop a personalized prevention plan so seniors can take proactive steps on their own to make healthier decisions and prevent illness or injury (for more information, see ACA §4103).

In addition, Medicare patients make no copayment or deductible payments on evidence-based recommended preventive services that are covered under Medicare. Where clinical prevention is appropriate and recommended, seniors can now focus on doing what it takes to stay healthy instead of what a service or screening is going to cost (for more information, see ACA §4104).

Despite government recommendations, a recent CDC study found that one-third of Americans aged 65 and over did not receive a flu shot. The ACA authorizes states to obtain additional vaccines for adults and has made investments from the Prevention and Public Health Fund to ensure that influenza and other vaccines are available for our senior population (for more information, see ACA §4204). This will keep grandparents and grandchildren healthy and happy.

Another beneficial aspect of the Prevention Fund is the Community Transformation Grants (CTG), which provide members of communities with the resources needed to work together at the local level to create health initiatives tailored to its specific needs. With a CTG Grant, a community can:

  • Improve nutrition and physical education programs;
  • Launch initiatives to reduce tobacco use, such as expanded quit lines; and
  • Improve access to healthful, affordable foods through farmers' markets and by making fresh fruits and vegetables available in local stores.

For (grand)children, parents and grandparents, the Affordable Care Act has made healthier choices easier choices. As the law enters its second year, costs will go down, access to proven preventive services will go up, people will be healthier and future generations will reap the rewards.