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Thursday, March 31, 2011

Is your Community Healthy?

The passage of the Affordable Care Act created a renewed emphasis on community prevention and population health. With the Prevention and Public Health Fund and the Community Transformation Grants, resources are now available to improve the health of communities around the country. But how do you know how healthy your community is?

On Wednesday, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation ( and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute ( released the 2011 County Health Rankings (  The County Health Rankings are a key component of the Mobilizing Action Toward Community Health (MATCH) project—a nationwide call to action for improving community health—first released last year.  The rankings generate 50 state reports, ranking each county within the 50 states according to its health outcomes and the multiple health factors that determine a county’s health. The four different types of health factors are health behaviors, clinical care, social and economic factors, and the physical environment. Specific county-level data (as well as state benchmarks) are also available.  The Rankings are built on America’s Health Rankings, an annual comprehensive assessment of the nation’s health on a state-by-state analysis, which is published jointly by United Health Foundation, the American Public Health Association and Partnership for Prevention.

Many counties around the country have used the Rankings to implement strategies and initiate interventions to positively influence health factors and improve their health outcomes.  One specific example is Wyandotte County, Kansas, where Mayor Joe Reardon worked with other local stakeholders to create a Healthy Communities initiative after seeing his state’s low rank in last year’s County Health Rankings report.

A new development with this year’s Rankings is the launch of an innovative tool, the County Health Calculator (  The calculator is a new interactive online application that simulates the affect of higher levels of education and income on health in a county.  It was developed by Center of Human Needs at Virginia Commonwealth University ( with funding by Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Read more on Partnership’s community prevention efforts here.

Posted by: Brian McCue at 12:00 AM
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Labels: AffordableCareAct, communityprevention, counties, rankings, RWJF, UnitedHealthFoundation

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Women’s Health Care and the Affordable Care Act

Only one year after the landmark legislation was signed, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is already improving women’s access to high quality, affordable health care. When the law is fully implemented in 2014, it will signify the greatest leap forward for American women’s health in decades.

New protections for women under the ACA include:

• Improved Access to Affordable Coverage: Under the ACA, adolescents and young adults up to age 26 may now remain on their families’ plans. Due to substantial new tax credits, more small businesses are now offering health care coverage to their employees. And beginning in 2014, expanded Medicaid eligibility means improved access to healthcare coverage for lower income women and families.
• Free Preventive Care: Under the ACA, women receive recommended preventive services without copayments or deductibles. This includes U.S. Preventive Services Task Force A- and B-rated services such as mammograms, screenings for cervical cancer and chlamydia, prenatal care and more.
• The End of Gender-Based Discrimination: Before the ACA, women could be charged higher premiums than men for the same insurance policy. Beginning in 2014, it will be illegal for insurance companies to charge women higher premiums on the basis of gender.
• Being a Woman is No Longer a Pre-Existing Condition: Before the ACA became law, insurers could deny women coverage for “pre-existing conditions” such as pregnancy, Cesarean sections, and breast cancer. Beginning in 2014, insurers cannot deny coverage to anyone based on pre-existing conditions. Already under the ACA, children cannot be denied coverage because of pre-existing conditions.
• The End of Lifetime Limits: Under the ACA, insurance companies cannot place a lifetime limit on the amount of coverage an individual receives. Beginning in 2014, annual limits are banned as well. 

For more information about the important rights and benefits the ACA provides for women and their families, see’s new page on Women and the Affordable Care Act.

Posted by: Brian McCue at 12:00 AM
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Labels: AffordableCareAct, healthinsurance, pre-existing, USPSTF, women

Monday, March 21, 2011

Happy Anniversary to the Affordable Care Act

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) will celebrate its one year anniversary March 23, 2011. Signed into law last year, the ACA puts into place comprehensive health insurance reforms designed to lower health care costs by enhancing the quality of health for all Americans.

The ACA’s small business provisions focus on finding ways for business owners to reduce their heath care costs by ensuring their employees have access to quality, affordable health insurance.

Small business provisions include:

• Small Businesses with fewer than 25 full time employees may qualify for the business tax credit.
• Employer-based health plans that provide health insurance to retirees aged 55-65 can get financial help through the Early Retiree Reinsurance Program.
• Insurance companies will no longer be able to deny individuals with a pre-existing condition, who may now be eligible to join the Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan.
•  Employees can receive recommended preventive services like mammograms and flu shots without any additional cost to the employee.
• Insurance companies are prohibited from capping the dollar amount of care an employee can receive in a lifetime, or dropping coverage due to a mistake on your application when you get sick.
• Insurance companies must spend at least 80% of premium dollars on healthcare.

Currently four million small business owners have been able to claim a tax credit up to 35% of their health insurance costs. But tax credits are not the only benefit for small business owners. By 2014, small businesses will be able to increase their buying power through state-based health insurance marketplaces. Employers will be able to identify health insurance plans that better meet their needs. The ACA has allowed small business employers to provide health benefits to their employees.

Throughout this week the Small Business Majority will host a series of roundtables and webinars designed to better understand what the ACA has meant to small businesses. Today, the Secretary of the U.S. Dept of Health and Human Services, Kathleen Sebelius will kick off the series in Ohio. The Secretary will join The Consortium of African American Organizations and the National Policy Director of the Small Business Majority. 

Posted by: Brian McCue at 12:00 AM
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Labels: AffordableCareAct, clinicalpreventiveservices, healthinsurance, HHS, pre-existing, Sibelius, smallbusiness, taxcredit

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