January 1, 2014

Is one of your goals for the new year to be more proactive about your health? If so, the Affordable Care Act is making it easier to stick to your resolution this year. New health insurance plans cover most preventive care services with no added cost to you. That means you can visit your doctor for your yearly physical exam and get the preventive care screenings you need without having to pay anything additional out of pocket, so long as he or she is in your health plan’s network.

Going in to see your doctor for a wellness exam or preventive screenings is one of the best ways to manage your health. Preventive care often leads to identifying health problems early, when your chances for treatment and cure are better. And now that these services are covered by all new health plans, it’s just that much easier to stay healthy in 2014.

Here are some of the preventive care tests and screenings that will be covered by your health insurance plan* under the new health care law:

For Adults
•Blood Pressure — For all adults
Starting at age 18, you should have your blood pressure tested every two years. High blood pressure or hypertension has no signs or symptoms, so the only way to know if you have it is to get tested.
•Cholesterol — For adults over certain ages and those at risk
High cholesterol can lead to heart disease or a heart attack, and so it’s important to get your cholesterol levels checked. Men over the age of 35 and women over the age of 45 should get their cholesterol tested. Men under 35 and women under 45 who have heart disease or at risk for heart disease should also be screened.
•Colorectal Cancer — For adults over 50
Colorectal (colon) cancer preventive care screenings will be covered for adults over the age of 50 under the Affordable Care Act. You should be tested for colorectal cancer starting at age 50 or before if it runs in your family. Screenings can find precancerous growths that can be removed before turning into cancer. Preventive care screenings can also spot colorectal cancer early, when treatment is most successful. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the screenings could prevent 60% of all deaths from colorectal cancer.
•Immunization vaccines
Kids are not the only ones who need to be immunized. Adults need to be vaccinated as well, but the type of shot you need varies. Here are some of the adult immunizations you should get.

For Women
•Breast Cancer — For women over 40
Mammograms — x-rays of the breast — are now covered for women over the age of 40 under the Affordable Care Act. Women between the ages of 40 and 49 should talk to their doctor to find out if they should get a mammogram and how often. Women from the age of 50 to 74 should get a mammogram every two years, in most cases. Women who have a higher chance of getting breast cancer will now also be able to get breast cancer genetic test counseling (BRCA) at no added cost.
•Cervical Cancer — For women who are sexually active
Regular Pap tests are recommended for women between the ages of 21 and 65. Pap tests can often catch precancerous cells and spot cervical cancer early, when treatment is more effective. Pap tests greatly lower the number of new cervical cancers diagnosed and the number of deaths each year.
•Osteoporosis — For women over 60 or those at risk
Women over the age of 65 should get a bone strength test. Women between the ages of 50 and 64 should talk to their doctor to see if they need a bone strength test. There are no symptoms of osteoporosis (weak bones) and so many people do not know they have it until they break a bone. That’s why it’s important to get a bone strength test sooner rather than later.
•Well-Women Visits — For women under 65
Women under the age of 65 will also have access to their yearly well-women visits with no added costs. Well women visits involve a full physical exam (which includes many preventive screenings mentioned above), talking about your health record and habits, as well as setting health goals for yourself. These preventive care visits can help make sure you are healthy and that you stay healthy.

This is not a complete list of preventive care tests that will be covered by your health care plan. Talk with your doctor openly and honestly if you have any other health concerns, and ask him or her which tests are right for you.

* You may have to pay all or part of the cost for preventive care services if your insurance plan is grandfathered, meaning the plan existed on or before March 23, 2010.

Also, your plan may require you to only see doctors within their network. This means that you will only be able to get preventive care services with no added costs when you visit a network doctor.

Sources: HealthCare.gov, U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, Centers for Disease Control & Prevention
Blue Review - Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Texas