Plan knowledge boosts use of preventive services

Educating women about their health plan may improve their health by making them more likely to obtain annual Pap smears, mammograms, cholesterol screenings, and blood pressure checks. A new survey indicates that when women don’t know which services are covered, they are less likely to seek preventive care.1

The survey, conducted by the Commonwealth Fund’s Commission on Women’s Health, found that more than one-third of Medicaid-eligible women thought they were not covered for mammograms, and almost half thought they weren’t covered for Pap smears, even though Medi-care pays for these services. The Commonwealth Fund is a New York City-based philanthropic foundation.

"Knowing that the cost of care will be covered by insurance is a major factor in whether older women receive preventive care," says Linda P. Fried, MD, MPH, professor of medicine and epidemiology at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, and one of the contributors to the survey. Fried predicts that helping women find out what is covered by their health plan will help increase the use of preventive services.

One good way to do this is to provide lectures on the screening services offered at your center to local businesses, says Melinda Noonan, RN, director of women’s and family services at Swedish Covenant Hospital in Chicago. Before the event, find out about the health plan or plans the business offers to its employees so that you can easily tell your audience what is covered by the one they use, she suggests. The best way to get that information is to contact the company’s benefits coordinator.

Noonan says businesses welcome the opportunity to increase the use of preventive services among their employees because it saves them money in the long run.

"They want to catch that cancer when it’s teensy tiny and easy to take care of," she says.

[Editor’s note: To find out more about the survey, contact Mary Lou Russell, Deputy Director of Communications, The Common-wealth Fund, Harkness House, 1 E. 75th St., New York, NY 10021-2692. Telephone: (212) 535-0400. Fax: (212) 249-1276.]


1. Falik MM and Collins KS, eds. Women’s Health: The Commonwealth Fund Survey. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press; 1996.