By Lauren Steele
Not all insurance coverage is created equal. In fact, women face greater out-of-pocket costs.
The Affordable Care Act (ACA) requires most plans to cover certain preventive services—such as cancer screenings such as Pap tests, mammograms, and colonoscopies—at no cost. However, research from Kaiser Family Foundation found that many women are still paying for these services. That research also found that 40% of women with insurance reported their plan paid less than they expected for a medical bill. And that’s not counting maternity care—which is a consideration all its own.
It’s important to know what you have a right to when it comes to your healthcare coverage.
Women who have insurance through the ACA marketplace should have their preventative care covered. That includes annual well-woman visits (with a Pap test), HPV immunizations, STD screenings, well-woman visits, and mammograms—as well as other tests (check out the full list here).
It’s important to call your insurer and find out what your benefits are, especially if you have questions about specific tests or procedures. “The best way to find out is to call the customer service on the back of the card, and your insurer will give you a straightforward response as to what’s available and what’s not—and why,” says Evan Center, founder of the Center Institute in Bozeman, Montana.
If your current health insurance isn’t covering your health care costs as needed, you’ve lost your health coverage from an employer, you’re getting married, or you’re going to have a baby, there is an opportunity to change your insurance plan or enroll through the ACA Marketplace during a special enrollment period. Check here to see if you qualify.
Whether you have employer-supplied insurance, private insurance, or no insurance at all, there are free health clinics and resources that specifically cater to women. Planned Parenthood—a nonprofit organization that has provided reproductive health care in the United States since 1916—offers care to patients for little to no cost. Planned Parenthood offers most of its services on a sliding scale and will work with you personally to find a payment plan (or fee waive) that works best for you and your situation. In addition to services like STD screening, hormone therapy, and cancer screenings, the nonprofit also offers primary care services along with referrals to outside physicians.
There are countless other free medical clinics, low income clinics, clinics for those who are uninsured, and sliding scale clinics that allow you to pay what you can for health care all around the country. A great place to find one near you is by searching this directory, which allows you to filter by region, health care needs, and other specifics that can help you get the care you need. You can also call 211, the most comprehensive source of social services in the U.S. FamilyWize’s partner United Way provides funding for more than 70% of 211 centers, which are available to 95% of Americans.
While it’s not easy to navigate the world of affordable health care, there are resources. When you don’t feel well—or just want to take care of your health with preventative testing and screening—the cost of care shouldn’t stop you.
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