Last week, a federal judge in Texas reversed the provision of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) that requires health insurers to cover a common set of basic preventive services at no cost to the consumer. If upheld, this ruling would have a significant negative impact on the health of the nation. It would make essential preventive services much less available and affordable, exposing an estimated 100 million people to the threat of harm and financial burden.

At risk are screenings for lung and colon cancer, HIV, and Hepatitis C; statins for prevention of cardiovascular disease; medication to prevent breast cancer in high-risk women; services to prevent preeclampsia and depression in pregnant women; medication to prevent HIV; and other services.

The importance of prevention to improve individual and population health cannot be overstated. The U.S. health system must evolve from a “sick care” system to one focused on prevention and good health. Evidence compiled by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine has definitively shown the importance of preventive health care services in averting severe illness, thereby reducing the cost of care over the long term. Preventive services not only benefit individuals, but also support the nation’s overall health and economic prosperity. Any decision that makes these services less accessible would put millions at risk and increase health care costs for the nation.

The evidence is clear. Preventive health services should be accessible to everyone in the country. An unhealthy population increases the cost of care and impairs our nation’s competitiveness. Health systems, insurers, employers, and companies have the ability, and the responsibility, to do the right thing for consumers and the smart thing for our nation.

–Victor J. Dzau, MD, President, National Academy of Medicine

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