Twelve years later, John is healthy and in remission. But every year, Maggie and John return to the children's hospital for his checkups -- and Maggie says it is heartbreaking to see the children there who were not as lucky as John to have their cancer caught in time.
Under the Affordable Care Act, more Americans will have the same fighting chance to beat cancer or avoid the onset of chronic diseases -- improving their quality of life and reducing health-care costs.
The preventive services that must be covered by new health policies beginning on or after Sept. 23 include services for Americans at every stage of life, from counseling and screening to ensure healthy pregnancies, to regular well-child visits and immunizations, to blood pressure, diabetes, and cholesterol tests, as well as counseling on quitting smoking, losing weight, and eating better.
Studies show that cost-sharing for preventive services keep people from using them. When access to colonoscopies and mammograms cost hundreds of dollars, these important services can become out of reach for many working families or seniors on a limited income. That is why the Affordable Care Act will also make it easier for seniors on Medicare and Americans enrolled in Medicaid to access critical prevention services.
And we're not stopping there. The Affordable Care Act created the Prevention and Public Health Fund which is investing in community-based prevention initiatives and, this year, expanding the number of primary care professionals because you can't get a cancer screening if you can't find a doctor to administer it. A new Prevention, Health Promotion and Public Health Council, comprised of top officials from across the federal government, is creating a National Prevention and Health Promotion Strategy to help us become a healthier nation.
Together, our new investment in prevention is going to yield significant dividends for both the health and pocketbooks of Americans. Keeping people healthy, and catching diseases early, can help lower health-care costs. This will translate into savings for taxpayers -- and in reduced health insurance premiums over the long run.
But most importantly, preventive care can save lives -- like that of Maggie's son John. And those savings are priceless.
Sebelius is the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services.