03/23/2010 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Prevention: An Impetus for Moving Health Reform Forward

As we turn the page to the next stage of debates around health reform, we should remember there is a whole lot in the current Senate and House bills that is popular, already in close agreement, and could be the impetus for moving forward.

The prevention and wellness sections of the bills could help do just that.

A public opinion survey released in November 2009 by Trust for America's Health (TFAH) and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) found that disease prevention is one of the most popular parts of health reform. In fact, 71 percent of Americans favor an increased investment in disease prevention.

Investing in disease prevention receives majority support from across the political spectrum (85 percent of Democrats, 59 percent of Republicans, and 68 percent of Independents) and across the country (72 percent in the Northeast, 73 percent in the South, 71 percent in the West, and 69 percent in the Midwest), according to the poll, conducted by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research and Public Opinion Strategies.

The prevention provisions in the two bills are also not far apart - meaning quick consensus could be possible. These sections focus on improving the health of Americans - and moving us away from a "sick care" system to a true "health care" system. Some of the key measures that are similar in the House and Senate bills include:

Establishment of a Dedicated Funding Mechanism for Prevention and Public Health. The Senate bill includes a combined $25 billion for a Prevention and Public Health Fund and a Community Health Center Fund, and the House bill includes a total of $33.9 billion for a Public Health Investment Fund.

Creation of a National Prevention Strategy. The Senate bill includes the creation of National Prevention and Health Promotion Strategy to set goals and objectives to improve the health of Americans through federally-supported prevention, health promotion and public health programs, including accountability measures for determining results. The House bill includes the creation of a National Prevention and Wellness Strategy, directing the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) to submit a national strategy to improve the nation's health through evidence-based clinical and community-based prevention and wellness activities by setting goals and priorities and a plan for implementing the strategy.

Coverage of Effective and Affordable Preventive Health Services. The Senate bill would require coverage in the essential benefits plan of preventive benefits defined by the HHS Secretary, such as chronic disease management and maternal and newborn care, and eliminates cost sharing. It also requires group health plans to provide coverage, without cost sharing, for services recommended with a grade of A or B in the current recommendations of the US Preventive Services Task Force and vaccines recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices. The House bill includes minimum coverage of services recommended with a grade of A or B by the Task Force on Clinical Preventive Services and vaccines recommended by the CDC, and also eliminates cost sharing. Both bills also include waiving cost sharing (both co-insurance and deductibles) for preventive services in Medicare.

We know that Americans understand and overwhelmingly agree about the value of prevention. They know that millions of us suffer from diseases that could have been prevented if we spent more time trying to keep people healthy in the first place instead of treating people after they are already sick. By coming together over the areas where we agree, we can move forward with reforming what is sick in our current health care system.