One of the aims of the Affordable Care Act, ACA or Obamacare whichever you prefer is to increase preventive care. The thought, and it’s a good thought, is that by increasing preventive care, total health care expenditures will decrease over time because major health problems will have been prevented instead of treated. Prevention is without questions less costly than treatment. Makes sense to me.
What doesn’t make sense to me is a recent decision by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) that has made it more difficult, and costly, for children to receive vaccinations. Historically the Vaccine for Children Program (VFC Program) has been administered by County Health Departments like the Henry County Health Center and every child was allowed, and encouraged, to participate in the program. As of October 1, 2012 the CDC stated that the Henry County Health Center, and other County Health Departments, will no longer receive funding to provide immunizations through the VFC Program to anyone who is considered “fully insured” by health insurance.
This means that anyone with health insurance that covers the cost of vaccine, even if the insurance includes a high deductible or copay, is unable to obtain immunizations through a County Health Department. Medicaid, uninsured, American Indian or Alaskan Native may continue to receive immunizations through a County Health Department.
This is a big deal and here’s the reason why. Vaccinations are expensive and even though an insurance plan may cover the vaccination if a co-pay has not been met or the insurance plan includes a high deductible, the vaccination may cost hundreds of dollars out-of-pocket. The high out-of-pocket cost may deter an insured individual from having his or her child vaccinated. If a parent can not afford the vaccination and must choose between food or a vaccine, many will choose food.
The United States has a solid track record relative to vaccinations and many diseases have basically been eradicated because of the vaccination program. If the cost of a vaccination becomes a deterrent and fewer children get vaccinated we run the risk of certain diseases returning and long-term health costs for those affected, and society, increasing. Polio was once a leading cause of death in our society but because of vaccination programs, new polio diagnosis are almost nonexistent. Vaccinations save lives and reduce health care costs to society.
My mother was a leader in public health and she spent a long portion of her working career advocating for public health at the state and national level. The CDC’s decision to make vaccinations more difficult to acquire goes against everything the CDC stands for and against the mission of public health. If she were alive today I’m sure my mother would be doing everything within her means to educate political leaders on the CDC’s poor decision, as it is, I’m sure she’s rolling over in her grave.