Use of Preventive Services is Growing but Varies Widely

GAO-02-777T: Published: May 23, 2002. Publicly Released: May 23, 2002.

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Janet Heinrich
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Preventive health care services can extend lives and promote the well being of the nation's seniors. Medicare now covers 10 preventive services--three types of immunizations and seven types of screenings--and legislation has been introduced to cover additional services. However, not all beneficiaries avail themselves of Medicare's preventive services. Some may simply choose not to use them, but others may be unaware that these services are covered by Medicare. Although the use of Medicare preventive service is growing, it varies from service to service and by state, ethnic group, income, and level of education. To ensure that preventive services are delivered to those who need them, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) sponsors activities to increase their use. CMS now funds interventions to increase the use of three services--breast cancer screening and immunizations against the flu and pneumonia--in each state. CMS also pays for interventions to increase use of services by minorities and low-income beneficiaries with low usage rates. CMS is evaluating the effectiveness of current efforts and expects to have the evaluation results later in 2002.

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