Beneficiary Use of Clinical Preventive Services

GAO-02-422: Published: Apr 10, 2002. Publicly Released: May 23, 2002.

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Janet Heinrich
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Preventive medicine, including immunizations for many diseases and screening for some types of cancer, holds the promise to extend and improve the quality of life for millions of Americans. Medicare now covers three preventive services for immunizations and three for screenings, and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) sponsors "interventions" to increase the use of preventive services. GAO found that the use of preventive services varies widely by service, state, ethnic group, income, and education. The greatest differences among ethnic groups were for immunization rates. Cancer screening rates tended to differ according to income and education level. CMS pays for interventions that promote breast cancer screenings and pneumonia and flu shots. Most of the techniques being used, such as reminder systems that medical offices can use to alert doctors and patients to needed cancer screenings, have been effective. CMS is evaluating what its current efforts have accomplished and expects the results later this year.

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