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Medicare :: HHS, CMS officials kick off a Healthier US Starts Here initiative

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) launched “A Healthier US Starts Here,” an initiative focused on motivating seniors and others with Medicare to make the most of Medicare’s preventive services.

During the spring and summer, the Medicare Prevention tour bus will visit each of the 48 continental United States to promote conversations between people with Medicare, families, caregivers, health professionals, and community organizations.

Many disease prevention advocates, employers, and civic and state leaders have joined our efforts to create awareness of disease prevention and wellness.

“Preventive health care can help people live healthier lives and can help reduce costs associated with treating chronic disease. From Seattle to Miami and Boston to San Diego, A Healthier US Starts Here will enlist the support of local organizations to help Medicare beneficiaries and all Americans learn how to live longer, healthier, and happier lives,” HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt said.

At today’s launch, Secretary Leavitt and CMS Acting Administrator Leslie V. Norwalk presented data showing that the increased use of Medicare preventive benefits can help prevent and detect chronic diseases early in their course, when they are most treatable, and can save lives. For example:

— More than 34 million Americans have low bone mass, placing them at increased risk for osteoporosis; osteoporosis can be prevented and early diagnosis and treatment can reduce or prevent fractures from occurring.
— Decreasing total cholesterol levels by 10 percent in the U.S. population could result in a 30 percent reduction in the incidence of coronary heart disease.
— One pneumonia vaccine, which is free to Medicare beneficiaries, can be lifesaving — yet only about two thirds of those with Medicare report receiving the service and 46,700 U.S. adults die annually from vaccine preventable diseases.

“Many beneficiaries are unaware that Medicare covers preventive screenings and other benefits, sometimes at no cost. New demands will be placed on the Medicare system as vast numbers of baby boomers begin reaching Medicare eligibility. The health of our beneficiaries and the health of the Medicare Trust Fund are going to depend ever more on good prevention programs,” said Acting Administrator Norwalk.

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