Senior Medical Editor Louise Chang, MD, (right), participates at a White House Town Hall on senior health.
By Louise Chang, MD
Earlier this week, the White House invited WebMD to a live town hall event focused on seniors’ health. I was excited to represent WebMD alongside HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, Kathy Greenlee, Assistant Secretary for Aging, HHS, and others.
There were many great questions from WebMD users, the audience, Facebook, and Twitter. Senior health is clearly a priority issue. The latest figures show 49 million people rely on Medicare already, and that number is expected to grow.
Topics of concern brought up during the town hall included cost, access to care, elder abuse, fraud, patient-doctor relationship, advanced directives, long term care, variability in quality of services, safer transition of care when patients are discharged from the hospital. I was able to ask four questions that came from WebMD readers, and provide patient insight into concerns about hospital discharge. See how the panelists responded to questions here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_IsoZL7KSSg&feature=plcp
Both Medicare and the health care reform law have many provisions and benefits, particularly cost-free preventive health services. Whether or not the law survives its challenge in the Supreme Court, preventive health is important. Currently, the law covers a yearly wellness visit with your doctor in addition to screenings for important medical conditions. Still, most people aren’t taking advantage of the services. See the current list here: http://www.medicare.gov/navigation/manage-your-health/preventive-services/preventive-service-overview.aspx
Groups like the National Council on Aging and the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging offer resources to help inform and educate people about benefits and services that they qualify for, but that often still requires the initial step of seeking out the information. This website is a great tool to find benefit programs to help you pay for medical care, medicines, food, utilities and more www.benefitscheckup.org.
Remember that many conditions, including high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, cancer, heart disease can be “silent.” By the time you feel the effect of the condition or suffer a complication like heart attack or kidney disease, your body has already suffered damage. Being proactive earlier is key, and preventive health measures are the means to catch potential problems early to help avoid or minimize complications later.