See the doctor when you’re healthy. That’s part of the message behind National Women’s Health Week and National Women’s Checkup Day. With its annual health observance, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office on Women’s Health strives to “empower women to make their health a priority.”1
In 2015, National Women’s Health Week will be held May 10 through May 16. National Women’s Checkup Day falls on May 11, 2015. Mark your calendar and use it as a reminder to schedule a well-woman visit, also known as a preventive care visit or wellness exam.
You don’t have to wait, though. If you’re due for a well-woman visit or haven’t had one in awhile, make it a point to schedule an appointment as soon as possible.
Get preventive care without cost-sharing
All health insurance plans that qualify as minimum essential coverage under the Affordable Care Act must cover certain preventive services at no additional cost to the insured. That means major medical health insurance plans that started on or after Aug. 1, 2012 should include preventive care without cost-sharing.2 This includes health insurance plans purchased on or away from state-based and federally facilitated exchanges as well as the private marketplace, Medicaid, employer-based health plans and others.
While ACA-compliant health plans include “free” preventive care benefits for men, women and children, there are 22 specific to women alone. They include but are not limited to the following:
• Cervical cancer screenings
• Breast cancer mammography screenings
• Folic acid supplements
• Gestational diabetes screening
• STD testing and counseling
• Well-woman visits
Covered preventive services may be restricted to specific frequencies and/or age and risk groups. Visit healthcare.gov/preventive-care-benefits/women/ for more details. Contact your health insurance company to confirm your health insurance plan benefits.
Make the most of your checkup
Your well-woman visit is an important time to connect with your healthcare provider, receive age- and health condition-appropriate tests and screenings, update your medical file, and discuss health concerns.
The Office on Women’s Health also advises you discuss the following with your doctor or nurse during your appointment3:
• Family history
• Family planning
• Personal habits such as alcohol and tobacco use
• Health goals
Routine preventive care can save money and even lives. Wellness visits can not only help with disease prevention, they can also lead to early detection of diseases when they are typically more treatable and less expensive to treat. The National Prevention Strategy estimates that increasing use of preventive services, including tobacco cessation screening, alcohol abuse screening and aspirin use, to 90 percent of the recommended levels could save $3.7 billion annually in medical costs.4 According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 7 out of 10 deaths among Americans each year are from chronic disease (e.g., heart disease, cancer) and almost 1 out of every 2 adults has at least one chronic illness, many of which are preventable.5
Remember: Your well-woman visit is only one part of preventive health care. Eating healthy, being active, paying attention to mental health and stress-management, and avoiding unhealthy behaviors are also important to disease prevention and overall wellness.6
1Office on Women’s Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. “National Women’s Health Week Fact Sheet.” N.D. http://womenshealth.gov/nwhw/tools/nwhw-fact-sheet/
2U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. “Preventive Services Covered Under the Affordable Care Act.” Last updated Sept. 27, 2012. http://www.hhs.gov/healthcare/facts/factsheets/2010/07/preventive-services-list.html
3Office on Women’s Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. “National Women’s Checkup Day Fact Sheet.” N.D. http://womenshealth.gov/nwhw
4National Prevention Council. “Appendix 1: Economic Benefits of Preventing Disease.” National Prevention Strategy. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of the Surgeon General, 2011. http://www.surgeongeneral.gov/initiatives/prevention/strategy/appendix1.pdf
5U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “National Prevention Strategy: America’s Plan for Better Health and Wellness.” Last updated Jan. 17, 2014. http://www.cdc.gov/features/preventionstrategy/