ORLANDO, Fla. - An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, and Dr. Ann Ashley-Gilbert prescribes to that adage.
“If you can prevent something ahead of time, why not do it?” Ashley-Gilbert asked.
For many, the answer to that question has been money.
However, some of the key benefits and rights under the Affordable Care Act include preventative screenings, checkups and tests that are now free under the new law.
“They don't have to worry about paying,” Ashley-Gilbert said. “That's been the biggest thing. They pay for other things, but going to the doctor is not one of those on the list of priorities.”
Dr. Ashley-Gilbert knows. She was Orlando's first black OB/GYN. She delivered the first baby ever at Florida Hospital and has been dealing with women’s health issues for more than 30 years.
Before the Affordable Care Act was passed, women’s insurance was higher than men’s. That disparity was something U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius addressed head-on during her recent trip to central Florida.
“Women cannot be charged more than men just because of their gender,” Sebelius said. “I like to say that being a woman is no longer a pre-existing condition.”
“I certainly agree with her,” Ashley-Gilbert said. “We have all kinds of things. We poor women have all kinds of things to worry with, but just being a woman doesn't mean you have a pre-existing condition.”
Along with equal charges for men and women, patients will now get to preventative care with zero co-pays as well. Health experts said this aspect of the law is a lifesaver.
“We can find cervical cancer early,” Ashley-Gilbert explained. “We can find breast disease early and not wait until a patient has a big lump on her breast and comes in with stage four breast cancer.”
The theory behind this change is that keeping more people healthy will keep them from needing expensive medical treatments. And, in turn, that overall improvement in people’s health will pay off with cheaper insurance premiums for everyone.
“Wellness and prevention are the key to keeping health care costs low in the future,” said Jason Altmire, Florida Blue’s Senior Vice President of Public Policy, Government and Community Affairs.
Whether people will take advantage of this shift in the focus of health care remains uncertain.
“Use that benefit,” said Rachel Steinberg, Orlando Health’s Director of Business Development. “You have it with your premiums. You are paying for it already. Use it.”
Dr. Ashley-Gilbert agrees and said it could be a matter of life and death.
“I keep saying early, but that early prevention is the best way,” she said.
Ashley-Gilbert insists there are enough doctors to handle these preventative exams, tests and screens. And while she wasn't commenting on the politics of the Affordable Care Act, which many doctors have complained about, her views on one thing are not private.
“I'm on the side of getting somebody help,” she said.