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Health insurance perks, from A to Z

Sexual health benefits for people with insurance under the ACA go well beyond birth control.

by Colleen Denny, MD

UPDATE: 2019 open enrollment for the Affordable Care Act plans runs from November 1, 2018 to December 15, 2018. Find out more here.

You’ve hopefully heard the good news by now: the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is up and running—and it’s bringing birth control without copays or deductibles to folks all over the U.S.

The even better news is that the perks of having health insurance don’t stop with birth control coverage. That’s because one of the main goals of the ACA is to make it easy for people to get services that keep them healthier in the long run.

One of the biggest benefits is an annual “well-woman” visit—for $0 out of pocket. This means a yearly opportunity for your health care provider to check up with you and see if there are any tests, treatments, or support programs that will keep you a “well woman”!

For anyone in a relationship and/or having sex

Beyond improving access to birth control, the ACA has you covered for many other health needs that may come with sex and relationships. Perks include:

  • Counseling and screening for sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Your health care provider can help you review your history to decide if STI tests are recommended. If so, she can order tests at that same visit, including gonorrhea, chlamydia, HIV, hepatitis B, and syphilis—at no cost to you.
  • Screening for urinary tract infections (UTIs). Unfortunately, sex can be a common trigger for urinary tract infections for some people. But no need to bear it alone—if you have UTI symptoms, the ACA lets you get tested for $0.
  • Screening and counseling for relationship violence. If you don’t feel safe in your relationship, the last thing you need to worry about is what it costs to talk about your situation with a health care provider. You can get counseling and help to make a plan to keep yourself safe at no cost.

For anyone planning for a baby

Hey, congrats! If you’re getting ready to have a kid, the ACA wants to make before, during, and after as healthy and affordable as possible. Perks include:

  • Folic acid supplements. Even when you’re only just thinking about getting pregnant, your health care provider can prescribe you folic acid supplements for no cost. These vitamins keep a baby’s brain and spine developing healthily in the womb and it’s a good idea to start taking them even before you get pregnant.
  • Screenings during pregnancy. The ACA covers a bunch of tests that are important during pregnancy. That includes testing for STIs and screening for anemia; liver disease (like Hepatitis B); gestational diabetes (a type of diabetes that can develop during pregnancy), and mismatches between mom’s blood type and baby’s blood type (called “Rh incompatibility”). And if any of these tests show an issue, your health care provider can make sure you get the right treatment.
  • Breastfeeding supplies and support. Once your little one has arrived, breastfeeding has lots and lots of health benefits for both of you. And the ACA wants to help you get those benefits! You can get a breastmilk pump and breastfeeding advice and guidance from your health care provider without copays or deductibles.

For anyone who wants to prevent cancer

Seems like a no-brainer, right? The ACA requires health insurance plans to cover tests and tools that help catch cancers early, or prevent cancer entirely. Perks include:

  • HPV vaccine. This series of three shots greatly decreases your risk for cervical cancer caused by human papillomavirus (HPV). Depending on your age, there may be no copay necessary!
  • Pap and HPV tests. In addition to the HPV vaccine, having regular Pap tests is still the best way to shrink your risk of cervical cancer. The ACA covers Pap tests and HPV tests, helping health care providers find cancers and pre-cancers early, when treatment and cures are easiest.
  • Support to quit smoking. If you’re ready to quit smoking, the ACA has your back. We know that quitting cuts down your risk of lung, mouth, stomach, colon, and even cervical cancer. You and your health care provider can develop a plan to go tobacco-free, including possible support services and medicines that make quitting easier.
  • Mammograms and more. After your 40th birthday, the ACA covers regular mammograms to check for early signs of breast cancer or pre-cancer. If other women in your family have had breast cancer or you have other risk factors, your health care provider can also arrange a special screening regimen or consider whether you should take any medicines to decrease the chances of developing breast cancer.

And more!

Aside from reproductive health, there’s a long list of covered benefits for all adults generally—including lots of covered vaccines and screening for depression, high blood pressure, or high cholesterol. The more physically and mentally fit you are, the better you’ll feel in your regular life—and in the bedroom. So if you’re one of the many folks with health insurance that meets ACA requirements, now’s a perfect time to get your next covered visit on the books.

Colleen Denny, MD, is an attending ObGyn at Bellevue Hospital in New York City and a clinical assistant professor with the NYU School of Medicine. She enjoys taking care of women in all phases of life and is especially interested in issues related to contraception access and public health. Outside of work, she’s a runner, a dancer, and a bit of a crossword puzzle nerd.

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