U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) and Tim Scott (R-SC) recently introduced legislation to encourage Americans to seek preventive care in order to avoid an increase in more serious health conditions down the line. The Getting Early Treatment and Comprehensive Assessments Reduces Emergencies (GET CARE) Act would authorize a public awareness campaign to educate the public on the importance of resuming routine procedures and screenings – something Americans were discouraged from doing for a period of time during the COVID-19 outbreak.
“Preventive health care and screenings can significantly reduce serious medical emergencies and improve long-term health outcomes,” said Sen. Warner. “In the initial days of the COVID-19 pandemic, health providers rightly encouraged patients to avoid non-essential care, but now we have to make sure the American public is aware of the importance of getting their regular health check-ups.”
“The COVID-19 pandemic has triggered a troubling decline in vital screenings and immunizations, undermining efforts to ensure prevention, early diagnosis, and effective treatment for dangerous diseases,” said Sen. Scott. “Drops in immunization and screening rates are particularly problematic for some of our most vulnerable populations, including our seniors. This bipartisan legislation would encourage Americans to safely and responsibly seek out the preventive care they need.”
During the initial phase of the COVID-19 pandemic, Americans were discouraged from seeking non-emergency care in order to prevent the spread of the virus and free up needed capacity at overwhelmed hospitals that were struggling to administer life-saving care to individuals with COVID-19. During this time, many states put executive orders in place to suspend elective procedures, and health care providers all across the country worked to limit face-to-face interactions, restricting office appointments to emergency needs. As a result of these necessary measures, there has been a significant decrease in routine health visits that normally play a crucial role in detecting a number of conditions and diseases that can be effectively treated when caught early.
Reuters has reported that diagnostic panels and cancer screenings fell by 68 percent nationally, with even more dramatic drops in COVID-19 hot spots. Additionally, the Epic Health Research Network estimates that over the span of three months, between March 15 and June 16, Americans missed about 65 percent of breast, colon, and cervical exams, which are essential in detecting cancer. There has also been an alarming decrease in childhood vaccination rates, which experts worry could trigger an epidemic of other infectious but vaccine-preventable diseases. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that the health care system could save over 100,000 additional lives per year if every person received recommended preventative care.
According to the CDC, preventative care is also essential in reducing health care costs. In fact, estimates show that avoidable chronic diseases account for more than 75 percent of the nation’s health care spending.
With many Americans still reluctant to seek non-emergency care, the GET CARE Act would authorize a public awareness campaign in order to bring attention to the importance of resuming preventive. Specifically, this legislation would direct the CDC to make competitive grants available to public or private entities in order to carry out a national, evidence-based campaign.
- Submitted Rachel Cohen, Communications Director