State health officials released a report this week concluding that public health in Utah has benefited from the Affordable Care Act – otherwise known as Obamacare. The status update focuses on access to preventive services like cancer screenings and immunizations.
The Affordable Care Act provides funding for public health efforts to increase immunizations and to prevent tobacco use, obesity, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and cancer. Dr. Robert Rolfs is Deputy Director of the Utah Department of Health.
“Utahns in general are very healthy people, but one of the areas that Utahns have not fared as well as other parts of the country have been in use of what we call clinical prevention services, so cancer screening, immunizations, cholesterol screening,” Rolfs says. “I think this is an area where we can improve relative to the rest of the country, and this should help us do that.”
Early indications are that use of preventive services has increased in Utah. For example, colorectal cancer screening went up from around 65% in 2010 to 75% in 2013. Rolfs says the effects of the ACA are difficult to quantify, but there is data on the impact of preventative screenings.
“We know that if you do it, you will be saving lives,” Rolfs says. “I think we can safely say that it’s made people healthier.” Under the ACA, insurers are required to cover many preventive services free of co-pays or cost sharing.