What Are Preventive Services?

Preventive services consist of healthcare services that include check-ups, patient counseling, and screenings to prevent illness, disease, and other health-related problems. Under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA)—the U.S. health reform enacted March 23, 2010— most health plans, including those that can be purchased on the Health Insurance Marketplace, are required to cover a set of preventive services at no cost to the policyholder.

This means that policyholders do not have to pay a copayment or coinsurance or meet a deductible to receive certain preventive services. Covered preventive services for adults, women, and children are included in all health insurance plans purchased after Sept. 23, 2010, as well.

To ensure enrollment, under the ACA, Americans were taxed for not enrolling in a health insurance plan. However, in December 2017, when former President Donald Trump signed the Tax Cut and Jobs Act, the former ACA-related tax levied on uninsured people was removed (as of 2019) under the new law.

Key Takeaways

  • In the 1940s, Hugh R. Leavell and E. Gurney Clark, who worked at the Harvard and Columbia University Schools of Public Health, respectively, coined the term primary prevention.
  • Preventive services are basic medical services offered to help people stay healthy.
  • Most preventive services are covered under basic insurance plans.
  • Women and children have specific preventive services. 
  • Preventive services take place at the primal, primary, secondary, and tertiary prevention levels.

Understanding Preventive Services

Preventive services are intended to help people remain healthy and to detect any health-related problems early while there is a better chance of recovery. There are many methods for the prevention of disease.

Preventive services take place at the primal, primary, secondary, and tertiary prevention levels.

It is recommended that adults and children aim to visit their doctor for regular check-ups, even if they feel healthy, to perform disease screening, identify risk factors for disease, discuss tips for a healthy and balanced lifestyle, stay up to date with immunizations and boosters, and maintain a good relationship with a healthcare provider

Types of Preventive Services

Adults, women, and children all have different types of services offered to them under preventive services. What is considered a preventive service? Below are examples of typical preventive services offered for adults, women, and children.

For Adults, Covered Preventive Services Include:

  • Abdominal aortic aneurysm (“AAA”) screening
  • Alcohol misuse screening and counseling
  • Aspirin use to prevent cardiovascular disease
  • Blood pressure screening
  • Cholesterol screening
  • Colorectal cancer screening for adults 50 to 75
  • Depression screening
  • Diet counseling
  • HIV screening
  • Immunization vaccines
  • Obesity screening and counseling
  • Sexually transmitted infection prevention counseling
  • Syphilis screening
  • Tobacco use screening
  • Type 2 diabetes screening 

Preventive Services Specifically for Women Include:

  • Anemia screening
  • BRCA counseling for women at higher risk
  • Breast cancer mammography and chemoprevention counseling
  • Breastfeeding counseling
  • Cervical cancer screening
  • Contraception
  • Domestic and interpersonal violence screening and counseling
  • Certain items and services for pregnant women
  • Gestational diabetes screening
  • Osteoporosis screening
  • Rh incompatibility screening

Preventive Services Specifically for Children Include:

  • Autism screening
  • Behavioral assessments
  • Children’s immunization vaccines
  • Congenital hypothyroidism screenings for newborns
  • Depression screening
  • Developmental screening
  • Dyslipidemia screening
  • Fluoride chemoprevention supplements for children without fluoride in their water source
  • Hearing screening for newborns; and for children once between 11 and 14 years, once between 15 and 17 years, and once between 18 and 21 years
  • Height, weight, and body mass index measurements
  • Hematocrit or hemoglobin screening
  • Iron supplements for children ages 6 to 12 months at risk for anemia
  • Lead screening for children at risk of exposure
  • Vision screening