Preventive care can save lives. And these vaccines, screenings and other services can also save money, according to Shana Charles, assistant professor of health sciences at California State University, Fullerton.
Charles said studies show that by screening for certain cancers, “you’ll catch enough cases early on to be able to effectively treat and, God willing, cure them before they develop into debilitating diseases that are incredibly expensive.”
But about half of American adults don’t get the preventive services they need, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)— even though those with insurance could receive them without paying a copay or coinsurance at their visit.
Here are some of the preventive services insurance will cover if you fall into any of the following categories:
1.) Screenings and help for current and former smokers
Tobacco use can lead to chronic diseases like lung cancer, emphysema and asthma. Insured adults ages 55 and 80 who have smoked within the past 15 years can get lung cancer screenings at no cost. And all men who have ever smoked regularly should take advantage of a free screening for an abdominal aortic aneurysm.
If you still use tobacco and want to quit, keep in mind your health insurer provides tobacco counseling. In many cases, this includes access to quitting programs, apps, and patches or nicotine gum. For pregnant women, these tobacco cessation programs might include more guidance.
2.) Tests for overweight individuals
Excess weight is linked to many conditions that might seem benign or mild, but can become fatal. Case in point: high blood pressure. Millions of Americans control it with medication, but if you don’t even know you have it, you’re more likely to suffer a heart attack or stroke.
If you’re overweight, high blood pressure screenings are free under most health plans. And if you do have high blood pressure, you’re also a candidate for a free Type 2 diabetes screening. High-risk adults can also receive free cholesterol screenings, and all obese individuals can get coverage for obesity and diet counseling if they have qualifying health insurance.
3.) Routine screenings for older adults
As we age, our bodies become more prone to diseases. That’s why, starting at age 40, insurance covers mammograms every one to two years, depending on a patient’s risk factors. Starting at 55, women can also get coverage for daily aspirin use. Men can become eligible for this coverage at age 45.
Women over 60 who are at higher risk for osteoporosis qualify for free screenings. All adults can get colorectal cancer screenings starting at age 50, and those who were born between 1945 and 1965 can get free hepatitis C screenings.
4.) Tests and services for women who may become pregnant
Women, especially those who may become pregnant, also qualify for additional health services. All women up to the age of 65 with qualifying health plans are covered for one well-woman visit per year.
If you’re pregnant, you may also receive additional screenings for hepatitis B and gestational diabetes at no cost, in addition to breastfeeding support and counseling.
Plan ahead to avoid extra expenses
Preventive screenings and vaccinations themselves are usually free— but you might be surprised to find you’ve been billed for a related charge, such as a facility doctor’s fee. To ensure you pay as little as possible, take the following steps:
● Always choose in-network doctors and clinics. Check your insurer’s patient portal to find doctors in your area or verify that yours is in-network.
● If you’re going to see your doctor for a checkup, schedule your screenings at the same time so you don’t have to pay for two visits.
● If you’re pregnant, ask your OB-GYN for all the maternity screenings listed in your policy as soon as possible. This way, you’ll avoid missing the window for insurance coverage and potentially prevent costly complications down the road.
By taking the time now to ensure better health later, you could save yourself a lot of money— and you could also save your own life.