Virginia has benefited substantially from the widespread adoption of preventive care benefits into the standard practice of health plans and providers in our state. Proactive management of patient health not only benefits the patients themselves, but providers and the health care community at large, as health outcomes are improved and the cost of care is reduced. The success of these preventive care benefits would not be possible without the health plans that cover them — and the nurses who deliver them.
As a registered nurse with 25 years of experience, I understand the significance of improving access, prevention and health outcomes. Similar to most nurses, I began my career at the bedside and was fortunate to begin in pediatrics, where I found many challenges in the delivery of care to those who are most vulnerable. My colleagues and I saw firsthand how education and preventive care can change lives in the most positive ways. Education and advocacy are fundamental in the delivery of care nurses provide; at the same time we provide expert care for our patients related to their diagnosis, we simultaneously provide education to our patients and their families.
The primary objective of the health care community, from nurses to health plans, is to promote long-term health and reduce the need to treat future, more serious conditions. With this objective in mind, the nursing community in Virginia has especially embraced the positive role that preventive care can play in the lives of our patients. Just as it is with all other aspects of health care, a nurse’s role in preventive health is focused on delivering care services, encouraging patients to use their benefits and educating them on the life- and cost-saving realities of preventive care.
Fortunately, the value of preventive care is actively recognized by health plans across the state of Virginia. Insurers not only include these health care benefits at no extra cost to our patients, but they are proactively working to develop and operate programs that promote long-term health. These include the basic preventive care benefits that you’d expect — screenings such as blood pressure and cholesterol measurements and counseling related to diet and exercise. But they also extend to more proactive incentive programs meant to keep patients healthy in the long term, including digital health coaching and telemedicine services that ensure Virginians in rural areas receive the provider consultations they need to maintain healthy lifestyles.
This new wave of preventive care — one where health plans are incentivized to keep patients healthy in the long term — is built on the foundation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which provided a baseline of preventive health care benefits. From there, health plans have developed practices to make sure patients stay on top of their health. When patients are healthier, the entire health care community benefits.
It is worth recognizing the considerable cost-saving benefits that these services provide both patients and their providers. By treating conditions early and promoting healthy habits, we can work to prevent the need to treat more serious, more expensive health situations in the future.
Adoption of preventive care benefits has been especially important to women. Another key provision of the ACA enables health plans to deliver important maternal health benefits, including anemia screenings for pregnant mothers and breastfeeding support and counseling for new mothers, as well as mammograms and cervical cancer screenings. Health plans also have made “well-woman” checkup visits more accessible. These visits cover a full range of services, including shots, screenings, education and counseling, and generally focus on overall health and wellness by tracking healthy habits, setting goals and more. Again, all of these benefits come at no extra cost thanks to the health plans operating in Virginia.
These benefits, programs and more are covered. Every patient in Virginia, regardless of how healthy they might believe they are, should avail themselves of the positive benefits that preventive care can bring into their lives. Cost-saving benefits of preventive care have been widely recognized by the health care community, including providers and health plans, and will be here to stay as we all work collaboratively on the future of our health.