The voices of Urban Institute's researchers and staff
August 12, 2015

A new way to spread the word about the importance of preventive care

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 900,000 people in the United States die prematurely each year from the five leading causes of death—heart disease, cancer, stroke, respiratory illness and unintentional injury—yet up to 40 percent of these deaths could be prevented. Regular preventive health care, like checkups, vaccines, and screenings, can help prevent and detect diseases when they are most treatable, yet it has been estimated that Americans receive only about half of recommended preventive services.

The Affordable Care Act places greater emphasis on prevention and expanded coverage of preventive services for millions of Americans, including hundreds of thousands of people in states that have expanded Medicaid or that have exercised other opportunities to increase access to preventive care. With preventive services more available than ever before, there is an opportunity to have a lasting impact on the lives of Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) beneficiaries. However, expanded coverage and benefits are only effective if beneficiaries know about them and utilize them. 

The Urban Institute, together with partners Weber Shandwick and the American Institutes for Research, has developed Living Well, a new collection of outreach and educational materials for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to help Medicaid and CHIP beneficiaries understand the preventive benefits available to them and how to access those services. The toolkit includes marketing materials and information that state and local agencies, health clinics, and other partners can customize and use in their outreach to these beneficiaries in a variety of clinical and community settings.

Beneficiaries may face social, cultural, psychological and logistical barriers to accessing services, and while this toolkit can’t address them all, Living Well seeks to make preventive care a little less daunting. It connects preventive care in the clinical setting with everyday life, thereby normalizing it and equating it to the many things that are most important to us in life and that we do to live well. 

Over the coming months, the Urban Institute research team will conduct an implementation evaluation to understand state Medicaid agencies’ awareness and utilization of the Living Well toolkit. We plan to collect analytics on e-mail and web traffic around and downloads of the toolkit; conduct qualitative interviews with a subset of state Medicaid agencies on their use of the toolkit; and track the dissemination of toolkit materials by a subset of states.  

At the same time, we will continue working with CMS to support, track, and evaluate additional efforts to increase access to preventive health care services in Medicaid and CHIP. This includes the fielding and analysis of a survey of state Medicaid officials on their current coverage practices and the development of tools to help primary care providers and Medicaid and CHIP managed care plans increase the delivery and improve the quality of preventive services. We’ve already completed reports on factors influencing preventive service utilization among adults and children covered by Medicaid and CHIP, and we’re currently finalizing a report on the transparency of preventive service quality and cost information on states’ Medicaid websites.

Our hope is that the toolkit, now available on Medicaid.gov, combined with these other efforts, will help more Americans get high-quality, recommended preventive services so they can live well.

Deying Sun, 71, of Boston, smiles after radiology technician Jennifer Brodeur performed a mammogram at the See, Test & Treat program at Tufts Medical Center in Boston, Saturday, Oct. 15, 2011. Photo by Gretchen Ertl / AP Images for College of American Pathologists

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