Thanks to health care reform, most insurance plans offer some types of preventive care free of charge. That includes certain tests, treatments, and counseling. Since you won't have to pay co-pays or co-insurance at the doctor's office or drug store, you'll have more money in your pocket.
But your savings can go way beyond that. Preventive care can help lower your risk of serious and costly diseases later in life. It protects both your health and your family's finances.
Here’s how preventive care saves you money.
Vaccines -- and fewer sick days. Vaccines don't only protect you against rare diseases. They protect you from everyday sicknesses, like the flu and pneumonia. If you get sick less this year, you'll save money -- and not only in cold medicines and tissues. You'll need fewer sick days and won’t lose income from days off work. Getting your kids vaccinated saves you money, too. You'll need fewer days off from work to take care of them or pay for a babysitter.
Early detection. Some health conditions don't have symptoms. That's where free screening tests can help. With regular screening tests of your blood pressure and cholesterol, as well as colonoscopies and mammograms when recommended, your doctor may be able to catch disease early. The earlier you detect these conditions, the sooner you can get them under control. You'll lower your risk of serious illness, costly medical care, and hospital stays down the line. One note, though: If your doctor orders a test because you already have symptoms -- for example, a mammogram to check out a breast lump -- it may be considered diagnostic instead of preventive. In that case, you would have to pay the normal fees for your appointment and testing.
Lower risk of disability. One in four young adults will be disabled before they retire. Disability -- from conditions like cancer, strokes, and heart attacks -- isn't only a health problem. It's a huge financial problem, too, since you could lose your income. Free screening tests and preventive care won't only protect your health; they can also help shield your finances from the costs of disability.
Help during pregnancy. Having a baby costs a lot. Free preventive care can help. Women who are pregnant are eligible for lots of no-cost care, like blood tests and treatment with folic acid. Good care can also lower your risk of expensive complications. After you have your baby, your plan will cover counseling for successful breastfeeding and the cost of renting or buying a breast pump.
Birth control. Health care reform makes FDA-approved birth control -- like the pill, diaphragms and caps, implants, and other types -- available at no cost. The specific brands may depend on your health plan.
Help quitting smoking. The average smoker, smoking a pack a day, spends over $2,000 a year on cigarettes. The Affordable Care Act offers free help for quitting, including counseling with your doctor. Some plans may cover medication to help you quit. Health care reform also allows insurers to charge smokers up to 50% more for health plans, so breaking your habit could save you a lot of money each year. It might also spare you the costs of treating serious heart and lung diseases later.