Some Doctors Are Still Charging Patients For The Preventative Care That’s Free Under Obamacare

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Many preventative care services like cancer screenings and flu shots must be provided for free, without a co-pay, under the Affordable Care Act. But some doctors are still charging Americans for these services due to confusion over what counts as a preventative care visit, according to USA Today.

Obamacare requires all insurance plans issued after 2010 (when the health law was passed) to cover preventative services deemed important by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) — a government panel of doctors and scientists — without a co-payment. Some of the procedures recently added to that list include cancer screenings for heavy smokers, HIV screenings for all Americans aged 15 to 65, and domestic violence screenings for all women aged 14 to 46.

Unfortunately, doctors’ offices and staff “aren’t really educated about what is covered,” said Monica Lindeen, Montana’s insurance commissioner and state auditor and vice president of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, in an interview with USA Today. “They don’t know what they need to bill for and what they don’t.”

Several doctors have been reported to charge patients for procedures as simple as a blood pressure test on consumer websites. A standard co-pay for that can run as much as $25 to $30.

In July, over 65 percent of doctors surveyed by the health industry jobs company Locum Tenens said that they were “not at all familiar” with crucial aspects of the law, such as plan benefits levels, contracted rates with insurers, patient coverage terms, and the claims process.

Although these mistakes may eventually be caught by claims processors and insurers or resolve themselves as long as the doctor’s office uses the appropriate billing code, public health advocates stress that doctors and consumers need to take the time to educate themselves about Obamacare.