Obamacare offers no-cost, preventative care

There’s still no such thing as a free lunch, but would you settle for a flu shot with a price tag of zero, or gratis medication to help you stop smoking? Those freebies – and others – are to come your way, regardless of which health insurance plan you choose for coverage starting in January 2014, when some of the biggest changes under the Affordable Care Act (ACA, or Obamacare) kick in.

Specifically, the ACA details certain preventive services that are included at no direct extra cost to all Americans (that means no co-pay, either). That’s a certainty for any plan bought through the insurance marketplaces that will open in every state by Oct. 1.

Even if you buy the lowest-cost plan – the one that only kicks in if you have some sort of medical catastrophe – you will still get these freebies. Have insurance through your job? Many employer-based plans now offer these services at no cost for members, as well.

Under Obamacare, women also get a no-cost checkup each year, in addition to some no-cost screenings and tests. Men do have to pay for a visit, but men will get some of the screenings and vaccines with no direct cost.

In some cases – such as with a flu shot – you may have to lay out the cash and then be reimbursed by your insurer. That’s likely to happen if you get your shot at a chain pharmacy instead of the doctor’s office. But some of those chains also offer their own discounts – around 10- to 20-percent off whatever you buy – for people who roll up their sleeves for the shot in the stores at the same time.

Here are nine tests, screenings and treatments all adults will soon be able to get for no out-of-pocket cost:

Blood pressure screening.

Depression screening.

Obesity counseling and screening.

Sexually transmitted disease prevention counseling for adults at increased risk.

Smoking-cessation interventions, including counseling and medication.

Some vaccines (some are included if you missed your teenage booster) including an annual flu shot; human papilloma virus, which can protect against certain cancers); measles/mumps/rubella; a vaccine against a type of meningitis; chicken pox; and tetanus/diphtheria/pertussis, or whooping cough, which has made a comeback in some states.

Birth control for women (under most plans; doesn’t include all brands, though).

Breastfeeding counseling and supplies.

Domestic violence screening and counseling.