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Michelle Obama unveils preventative care guidelines

By Shawna Shepherd, CNN White House Producer
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Free preventative services will be part of the Affordable Care Act
  • The rules apply only to insurance plans created after September 23
  • Obesity, vision and hearing screenings are among the items covered for children

(CNN) -- Cost savings could be coming this fall to a doctor's office near you. First lady Michelle Obama announced Wednesday a plan for free preventative health care services, a part of the Affordable Care Act, which goes into effect in September.

One of the services provided under the new guidelines, obesity screenings, directly impacts the first lady's signature issue, the Let's Move campaign to prevent childhood obesity. She said her interest in the subject started years ago when she as a mother was "having a regular, normal life."

"I wasn't cooking enough. We were eating out a little bit too much, having our way with snacks and desserts -- it was shameless," Obama said.

She thanks her children's pediatrician for recommending a body mass index screening at an annual well-child visit.

"I never would have thought to ask for a screening myself. You know, I was like any mother, my kids were perfect. They still are," she said. "And that's how most parents think. It's hard to recognize the problem early enough.

The first lady was joined by Dr. Jill Biden, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, and other health care professionals at George Washington University Hospital.

The new guidelines do come with a hitch -- they will apply only to insurance plans created after September 23 of this year. People who stay on their existing plan won't benefit from the change.

Under the provisions, those newly created insurance plans will no longer charge copayments or other fees for preventative services such as screenings for diabetes, breast and colon cancer, tests for cholesterol and blood pressure, tobacco cessation and tetanus shots. For children the change will apply to regular pediatrician visits, vision and hearing screening, developmental assessments and immunizations in addition to screening for obesity.

Biden, wife of the vice president, said that after a number of friends were diagnosed with breast cancer, she decided she would use her experience as an educator to teach more people about breast cancer prevention.

Maggie Roberts of California, who had been invited to the event to introduce the first lady, shared a story about a routine well-child visit that saved her son, John, when he was 1 year old. His pediatrician found a mass inside his stomach that turned out to be a tumor, a Stage 3 neuroblastoma. John, now 12 years old and sitting in the front row at Wednesday's gathering, is in remission.

"We are so lucky to have come out on the positive side of this experience," she said. "But to see those children there who suffer because they did not have preventative care, and the long-term effects on not only the children but their families, is devastating."

 
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