Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Top Six Free Health Services for Women

Did you know the Affordable Care Act mandates that new insurance plans provide 19 free, preventive health services for women?

In the past, many health plans covered some or all of these services, but they often required cost-sharing (e.g., copays). Now -- as long as these services are administered by a provider in your network -- they are free of charge. They do not incur copays or coinsurance, and are free whether or not you've met your annual deductible.

The following is a list of the top 6 services that all women should have.

1. Breast cancer genetic test counseling (BRCA)
If you're a woman with a family history (e.g., two or more first-degree relatives) of breast cancer or ovarian cancer, you should ask a trained medical professional about whether to get genetic testing. If your provider recommends it, you will be tested for mutations in the BRCA gene and can be counseled on whether taking certain medications to lower your risk is right for you.

2. Breast cancer mammography screening
Women over 40 should start getting annual mammograms, and women over 50 should get mammograms every two years. Talk to your doctor to determine how often you, personally, should get a mammogram.

3. Breast cancer chemoprevention
Your provider can counsel you about medications to lower your breast cancer risk. Your plan will also cover you if you choose to go ahead with these cancer-prevention medications. There are currently two FDA-approved drugs -- tamoxifen and raloxifene -- that may lower your risk of breast cancer, if you have a significant family history of breast cancer or ovarian cancer.

4. Cervical cancer screening
Sexually active women should have regular cervical cancer screening tests every three to five years depending on your age and how often you get HPV tests. Cervical cancer deaths are preventable if women get regular Pap tests and abnormal cells are found before they turn into cancer. Pap tests should be administered every three years and can be provided during your well-woman visits.

5. Human papillomavirus DNA test
This can be done in concert with the cervical cancer screening during your Pap test, which in turn can be done during your well-woman visit. If you're not at high risk, you should be tested every three years once you turn 30. Speak your provider to determine how often you should be tested.

6. Well-woman visit
All women under 65 should have a well-woman visit every year. These visits provide age- and developmentally appropriate care, and often provide other preventive services as well.

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