Cancer screening tests are a type of preventive medical service. They are included as part of the essential health benefits that must be covered by any health plan you enroll in from your state's health insurance Marketplace. In fact, plans must offer certain free cancer screening tests if they want to be part of the Marketplace.
Free Cancer Screening Tests
Experts have learned that screening tests for certain types of cancer can save lives. Here's what you need to know about screenings for some common cancers.
Breast cancer . Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in women. It is also the second leading cause of cancer deaths among women. Mammograms can help find breast cancer early. This screening is just one part of preventive care women can get without having to pay a copay or coinsurance.
Check with your insurance company to find out your coverage. Some plans only cover mammograms every two years, and others pay for them every year. Under some plans, you have to be 40 or older to receive a free mammogram. If you are high-risk, you might be able to receive a mammogram earlier
Insurance plans that existed before March 2010 might not offer free mammograms. Always check your coverage before scheduling a screening test.
Cervical cancer . Regular Pap tests and tests for HPV, the human papillomavirus, can help find cervical cancer early.
The Affordable Care Act requires that most private health plans provide Pap tests and cervical cancer screening without asking women to pay a copay or coinsurance. Women older than 30 may have HPV testing every 3 years, regardless of Pap smear results.
Private health plans that were in place before the law was passed in March 2010 are the exceptions. These "grandfathered plans" don't have to offer free tests. Some of them may do it anyway, though. Check your plan's summary of benefits, or call your insurer if you aren't sure if your plan is grandfathered.
Colon cancer. Nine out of 10 people survive long-term if their colon cancer is caught early. However, just 40% of colorectal cancers are found at that early stage. If the cancer spreads to nearby organs or lymph nodes, the 5-year survival rate goes down to 70%. If it spreads to distant organs, your survival rate drops to 12%.
Under the Affordable Care Act, private health plans must offer one of several different types of screening tests for colon cancer. After age 50, you can receive a fecal blood test, a sigmoidoscopy, or a colonoscopy without owing a copay or coinsurance. Again, this does not apply to grandfathered plans so be sure to check your plan's summary of benefits.