Whether you just want an annual physical exam or are having a baby, the Affordable Care Act requires most insurers to cover a wide range of preventive health services for women. Here's a look at some of the services that are covered without copays, coinsurance, or deductibles. Check your policy’s benefits for details, because specific coverage is different from plan to plan.
Heart disease prevention -- You can get regular blood pressure and cholesterol screening tests for free. If you have high blood pressure, you can also get screening tests for type 2 diabetes. You should get blood pressure screening tests at least every 2 years, starting when you're 18. If you have high blood pressure, you will need to be checked more often. If you’re a woman over 45 at increased risk, you should have your cholesterol checked at least every 5 years. If you have any condition that raises your risk of heart disease, start the cholesterol checks at age 20.
To keep your heart in good shape:
- Exercise 30 minutes most days.
- Eat a heart-healthy diet low in saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, and sodium.
- If you smoke or use other forms of tobacco, quit. Most health plans cover programs to help at no out-of-pocket cost.
Cancer services -- Early screening tests for breast cancer, cervical cancer, and colorectal cancer are covered. This includes:
- Mammograms to check for breast cancer every 1-2 years for women over 40.
- Pap smear every 3 years for women 21-65 to check for cervical cancer. After age 30 your doctor may add HPV testing. How often you need these tests will may change depending on your risk.
- Colorectal cancer screening for women 50-75. Some tests are done every 1 to 2 years. Others are done every 5 to 10 years.
Breast cancer prevention – If you’re at high risk, you can get support a few ways. First, you can get genetic testing and counseling to help you make important choices about treatment. Also, starting in September 2014, drugs to help prevent breast cancer will be covered with no copays or deductibles when your doctor prescribes them.
Tobacco use -- You can get help quitting smoking or using tobacco. Most health care plans cover screening, where your doctor will ask if you smoke or use tobacco and then talk to you about quitting. Coverage under the Affordable Care Act may include free programs to help you stop smoking, as well as stop-smoking drugs and nicotine replacement therapy.
Osteoporosis -- Some women over 60 now don’t have to pay for osteoporosis screening tests, depending on their chances of getting bone disease. To help keep your bones strong, it's important to do regular weight-bearing exercises (like hiking, tennis), muscle-strengthening exercises (like lifting weights, using exercise bands), and flexibility exercises (like stretching).