Harvard Heart Letter

Million Hearts' national initiatives help you help yourself

Whether you call it "health care reform" or "Obamacare," the Affordable Care Act of 2010 (ACA) aligns well with Million Hearts goals. The ACA allocated about $103 million in funding to 61 states and communities via the CDC's Community Transformation Grants. These grants help cities and towns create environments that are tobacco-free and make it easier for people to walk, bicycle, and eat more healthfully.

The law also gives enrollees in new private insurance plans free access to blood pressure and cholesterol screening and free annual wellness visits for Medicare beneficiaries. It also gradually fills Medicare's "doughnut hole" in prescription-drug coverage to help older citizens afford medications for high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and smoking cessation.

Another policy change, announced in October 2011, is that Medicare will pay for annual screenings for alcohol misuse and depression, with no out-of-pocket cost to enrollees. A drink a day may help the heart and arteries, but long-term, excessive alcohol use raises blood pressure — and the risk of stroke and heart attack. People who are depressed are more likely to develop heart disease or have a heart attack than people who aren't, and those who have had a heart attack or live with heart failure are more likely to fall into depression than healthier folks.

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