What does the Affordable Care Act have to offer men?

As a wife, a daughter and a mother of a son I often worry about the health of the men in my life. And to be candid, I find myself worrying about the whole future of men’s health in this country.

The Affordable Care Act of 2010, has a lot of great benefits to offer a lot of people. It will allow more Americans to have access to vital health coverage, but I have to wonder, what about the guys?

Under the law, women will have greater access (without co-pay) to services like free screenings for HIV, chlamydia and gonorrhea, free contraception, free Well Woman visits, and number of pregnancy-related benefits, just to name a few. I applaud these benefits and strongly believe that they have the potential for a great positive impact on women across the country. The Washington Post recently covered the topic in their article, “New health law broadens free preventive services for women; men fare less well”.

But the last time I checked, sexually transmitted diseases affect both men and women and are passed between partners. I’m all for making free screenings for chlamydia and gonorrhea available to women, but if you test and treat only women you’re only fighting half the battle. If after treatment, a woman has sexual contact with a partner who unknowingly (or chooses not to share that) they have one of these diseases, she may be re-infected. And the treatment process has to start all over again.

In addition to sexual wellbeing, men should also be encouraged to take control of their health and should have access to an annual Well Man visit. As it is, men participate in preventive health visits at a much lower rate then women and often don’t see a health care provider until health conditions have worsened. If an annual Well Man visit was offered for free through the Affordable Care Act, men would at least have the opportunity to learn more about their health and wellness needs and take measures to prevent chronic disease and long-term health problems.

Men’s Health Network along with the Veteran’s Health Council have had the opportunity to meet with officials at the Department of Health and Human Services to propose a preventive services package for men. The package suggested by MHN includes screening for chlamydia, gonorrhea, and prostate cancer, and includes a recommendation for a Well Man visit similar to the Well Woman visit initiated by HHS on August 1 of this year.

MHN’s original prevention package also included HPV vaccines for boys. Score that one a win as CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices approved HPV vaccines for boys in October of 2011.

Let’s not leave our sons, fathers, husbands and brothers behind as we move forward in improving the health of our nation. Let’s make sure men have access to preventive care, care that will enhance and compliment the services that are being offered to women, and will encourage happier, healthier families.

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