It’s National Women’s Health Week, So Naturally, the GOP is Voting Yet Again to Repeal Obamacare!

— by Kathleen Sibelius, Secretary–Dept. of Health & Human Services

This week, starting with Mother’s Day,  we celebrate National Women’s Health Week. As a nation, we honor the women in our lives – our mothers, grandmothers, aunts, sisters, cousins, friends, and colleagues – by encouraging them to make their health a priority and to take steps to live healthier, happier lives.

Women are frequently the health care decision-makers in their families. We take time off from work to drive a parent to the doctor. We hold our children’s hands while they get their vaccinations. We make the appointments for our spouses’ checkups – and then make sure they actually go. We stretch and re-work our family budgets to pay the doctor’s bills. And too often, we put our own health last.

But the truth is unless we take care of ourselves first, we cannot really take care of our families. That means we have to eat right, exercise, and get the care we need to stay healthy. Unfortunately, preventive care has not always been easily accessible or affordable for everyone, including young women.

But the health care law is helping to usher in a new day for women’s health. The Affordable Care Act is making it easier for women to take control of their own health.  For many women, preventive services like mammograms, Pap smears, birth control, and yearly well-woman visits are now available without cost sharing. The health care law improves women’s access to appropriate preventive health screenings, which can help detect diseases early, when treatment is most effective and least costly.

Starting next year, insurance companies will no longer be allowed to refuse us coverage just because we’re battling breast cancer or have another pre-existing condition – and they won’t be allowed to charge us more just because we are women.

If you’re one of the millions of women who are uninsured or who buy insurance on their own, more options are on the way because of the Affordable Care Act. Starting October 1, 2013, you will be able to visit a new Health Insurance Marketplace where you can compare and choose from a range of plans to find one that best fits your needs and budget. All of these plans must cover a package of essential health benefits, including maternity and newborn care.

To get more information about the Marketplace and to sign up for email and text updates to get ready for October, visit HealthCare.gov.

Being healthy starts with each of us taking control. So Monday on National Women’s Checkup Day, and during National Women’s Health Week, I encourage you to sit down with your doctor or health care provider and talk about what you can do to take control of your health.

There’s no better gift you can give yourself – or your loved ones.

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HHS announces 89 new Accountable Care Organizations

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 9, 2012
Contact: HHS Press Office
(202) 690-6343

2.4 million people with Medicare to receive better, more coordinated care

Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced today, that as of July 1, 89 new Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs) began serving 1.2 million people with Medicare in 40 states and Washington, D.C.  ACOs are organizations formed by groups of doctors and other health care providers that have agreed to work together to coordinate care for people with Medicare.

These 89 new ACOs have entered into agreements with CMS, taking responsibility for the quality of care they provide to people with Medicare in return for the opportunity to share in savings realized through high-quality, well-coordinated care.

“Better coordinated care is good for patients and it saves money,” said Secretary Sebelius. “We applaud every one of these doctors, hospitals, health centers and others for working together to ensure millions of people with Medicare get better, more patient-centered, coordinated care.”

Participation in an ACO is purely voluntary for providers.  The Medicare Shared Savings Program (MSSP), and other initiatives related to ACOs, is made possible by the 2010 Affordable Care Act.  Federal savings from this initiative could be up to $940 million over four years.

“This new group of ACOs adds to a solid foundation,” said Centers for Medicare & Medicaid (CMS) Acting Administrator Marilyn Tavenner. “The Medicare ACO program opened for business in January and, already, more than 2.4 million beneficiaries are receiving care from providers participating in these important initiatives.”

The 89 ACOs announced today bring the total number of organizations participating in Medicare shared savings initiatives to 154, including the 32 ACOs participating in the testing of the Pioneer ACO Model by CMS’s Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation (Innovation Center) announced last December, and six Physician Group Practice Transition Demonstration organizations that started in January 2011.  In all, as of July 1, more than 2.4 million beneficiaries are receiving care from providers participating in Medicare shared savings initiatives.

The selected ACOs operate in a wide range of areas of the country and almost half are physician-driven organizations serving fewer than 10,000 beneficiaries, demonstrating that smaller organizations are interested in operating as ACOs.   Their models for coordinating care and improving quality vary in response to the needs of the beneficiaries in the areas they are serving.

To ensure that savings are achieved through improving care coordination and providing care that is appropriate, safe, and timely, an ACO must meet quality standards.  For 2012, CMS has established 33 quality measures relating to care coordination and patient safety, appropriate use of preventive health services, improved care for at-risk populations, and patient and caregiver experience of care.

Beginning this year, new ACO applications will be accepted annually.  The application period for organizations that wish to participate in the MSSP beginning in January 2013 is from Aug. 1 through Sept. 6, 2012.  More information, including application requirements, is available at http://www.cms.gov/Medicare/Medicare-Fee-for-Service-Payment/sharedsavingsprogram/Application.html

To learn more about the ACOs announced today, visit: http://www.cms.gov/apps/media/fact_sheets.asp

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