Monday, June 13, 2011

10 new health insurance freebies Cover Art

10 new health insurance freebies

Summary: Health insurance reform requires new plans to provide preventive care at no cost. Find out which tests and treatments now are free.

Table of Contents

  1. Diabetes, blood pressure and cholesterol tests
  2. Breast, cervical and colon cancer screenings
  3. Health education counseling
  4. Routine vaccines
  5. Flu shots
  6. Counseling and screening for healthy pregnancies
  7. Well-baby and well-child visits
  8. HIV and sexually transmitted disease screening
  9. Osteoporosis screening
  10. Obesity screening and weight loss counseling


If you have health insurance and have been putting off a colonoscopy, mammogram or other test, you now have one less excuse.

Health insurance reform requires that new group or individual health plans created or purchased since March 23, 2010, cover 100 percent of the costs of preventive care. That means you don't have to pay a deductible, coinsurance or copay for a variety of tests and treatments.

Keep in mind, though you still might have to pay a copay for an office visit if the preventive care is billed separately. Also, the law requires health plans to provide this fully-covered care only through in-network clinicians.

Here are 10 new health insurance "freebies." All of the following testing recommendations come from guidelines established by the U.S. Preventative Services Task Force.

1. Diabetes, blood pressure and cholesterol tests

High blood pressure and high cholesterol levels increase the risk for heart disease. Health insurance reform now covers tests for these conditions.

Blood pressure screening is recommended for all adults. Screening for Type 2 diabetes is recommended for adults with high blood pressure.

Cholesterol screening is recommended for:

  • Men 20 to 34and women 20 and older who are at risk for heart disease
  • All men 35 and older


2. Breast, cervical and colon cancer screenings

The American Cancer Society estimates health reform preventive provisions could double cancer screening rates among the newly insured, thereby saving tens of thousands of lives a year.

"Evidence shows that we could prevent as many as two-thirds of cancer deaths in this country with a proper focus on prevention," says John Seffrin, CEO of the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network.

Under health insurance reform, fully covered screenings include:

  • Mammograms to screen for breast cancer every one to two years for women over 40
  • Regular pap smears to screen for cervical cancer for sexually active women
  • Colonoscopies to screen for colon cancer for adults over 50


3. Health education counseling

Want to quit smoking but don't know how? Need advice on how to cut down on alcohol? Health counseling is fully covered to help you achieve these goals and others, such as how to improve eating habits and treat depression.

Counseling is eligible for coverage if it comes from your primary care doctor or a specialist or program referred by your doctor. Talk to your physician and check with your insurance plan to see what is covered.

"For decades our health care system has waited to treat people until they get sick, but the Affordable Care Act shifts the emphasis to disease prevention and management as well as improved wellness and quality of life," Seffrin says.

4. Routine vaccines

You don't have to pay anything out of pocket to get your kids immunized, except perhaps a copay for an office visit if the immunizations are billed separately. Fully covered vaccines include hepatitis A and B; tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis; measles, mumps and rubella; varicella (chickenpox); and other standard recommended shots. Routine vaccines for adults are also covered.

5. Flu shots

Each year, somewhere between 5 percent and 20 percent of the U.S. population gets the seasonal flu, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Most people recover, but flu can be lethal.

New plans now must fully cover the cost of flu shots. The CDC recommended vaccination for everyone 6 months and older during the most recent flu season.

6. Counseling and screening for healthy pregnancies

The U.S. infant mortality rate is about seven deaths for every 1,000 live births, disturbingly high for an industrialized nation, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. About 8.2 percent of babies have a low birth weight, an increase of 17 percent since 1990.

Under health insurance reform, fully covered services during pregnancy include:

  • Screening for conditions that can hurt women or their babies, including iron deficiency, hepatitis B, a pregnancy-related immune condition called Rh incompatibility and a bacterial infection called bacteriuria
  • Counseling from a doctor to help pregnant women quit smoking and avoid alcohol
  • Breast-feeding counseling and education to help nursing mothers.


7. Well-baby and well-child visits

Children in the United States receive recommended health care less than half of the time, according to a 2007 study from the RAND Corporation, Seattle Children's Hospital Research Institute and the University of Washington School of Medicine. Under health insurance reform, fully covered services include:

  • Screenings and health counseling to prevent and treat obesity among children, depression among adolescents, and dental cavities and anemia.
  • Routine vaccinations and boosters
  • Well-child visits to the doctor from birth to age 21


8. HIV and sexually transmitted disease screening

A new system to track HIV infection estimates that 56,300 U.S. residents were newly infected with the disease in 2006, the latest year such statistics are available, according to the CDC.

Screening for HIV and sexually transmitted diseases and behavioral counseling to prevent infection are now fully covered.

9. Osteoporosis screening

Osteoporosis occurs when bones become more porous and lose mass, making them susceptible to fractures and breaks with even simple activities, such as picking up a child, bumping into furniture or sneezing.

Health reform calls for routine screening for osteoporosis, which is recommended for all women 65 and older and for women 60 to 65 who are at increased risk for the condition.

10. Obesity screening and weight loss counseling

Two-thirds of Americans qualify as overweight or obese, according to the National Institutes of Health. Even more startling, 17 percent of women and 11 percent of men are severely obese.

Obesity increases risk of Type 2 diabetes, heart disease and a host of other health problems.

Screening for obesity and intensive health counseling and education now is fully covered to promote sustained weight loss for obese adults and obese children 6 and older. Your primary-care doctor may offer the health counseling or refer you to a specialist, such as a dietitian. Always check with your health plan before you schedule services to make sure they qualify for free coverage.

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