According to new data from the Centers for Disease Control, about one in four deaths that result from heart attacks and strokes could be avoided with better prevention methods. That means about 200,000 deaths a year could be prevented if those people made a few changes in their health habits — like quitting smoking, better managing their blood pressure, getting more physical activity, and consuming less sodium.
CDC researchers say that getting heart disease under control, and ultimately preventing these unnecessary deaths, needs to be a top priority. And they think Obamacare could be a big part of the solution.
Americans are better at taking preventative steps, like working to manage their blood pressure and cholesterol, when they’re regularly going to see a doctor who reminds them to do it. And they’re more likely to go to a doctor if they have insurance coverage for it.
It’s not a big surprise, then, that the CDC researchers believe preventable deaths from heart disease are lower for the people who have insurance. Even though people between the ages of 65 to 74 have the greatest risk of having a heart attack or a stroke, the number of preventable deaths drops off for that age group — something that federal researchers attribute to the fact that those people can get health insurance through Medicare. Only two percent of people older than 65 were uninsured during the duration of the CDC’s study. Meanwhile, about 60 percent of preventable deaths occur among people younger than 65. And about 22 percent of the people between the ages of 18 and 65 didn’t have any health care during the study.
In a conference call with reporters, CDC Director Dr. Tom Friedan pointed out that the federal health reform law will soon change that. “Beginning in October, the health insurance marketplaces will provide a new way for people to get health insurance so more patients have access to quality health insurance and coverage beginning as early as January 2014,” Friedan noted.
One of Obamacare’s central tenets is an emphasis on preventative care. The health reform law ensures that insurers will have to offer a minimum level of benefits that include a range of preventative services — like blood pressure and cholesterol screenings, diet counseling, obesity screening and counseling, STD tests, and well woman’s care — without charging an additional co-pay. By encouraging Americans to visit a doctor regularly, rather than waiting until they get very sick, the health reform law hopes to prevent chronic conditions from devolving and getting even more expensive than they would have been otherwise.
And the CDC is hopeful that will also help prevent deaths. “We do expect that if people 40 to 64 get insured, get care and get good care, we will see significant reductions,” Frieden explained on the call.