CHICAGO (CBS) -- Starting today, as many as 47 million women in the U.S. could be eligible for free preventive health care services, under a provision of President Barack Obama's health care law.
Under the Affordable Care Act, beginning Aug. 1, 2012, women are eligible to receive eight different services without a paying a co-pay: well-woman visits, such as annual checkups; contraception and contraceptive counseling; gestational diabetes screening; HPV DNA testing; annual STD counseling; HIV screening and counseling; breastfeeding support, supplies and counseling; and interpersonal and domestic violence screening and counseling.
Dr. Andrea Lee, an OB/GYN at Erie Family Health Center in Chicago, said many of her patients are uninsured or have Medicaid. A few have private insurance.
Lee said the female patients at her center will benefit from the preventive services offered through the Affordable Care Act.
"With contraception, it is not infrequent that somebody will come in and say, 'I cannot pay the $30, $40 co-pay for birth control pills,' or 'This isn't covered under the current insurance,'" Lee said.
Now, under the Affordable Care Act, when an insured person's insurance renews, there will be no additional costs for things like contraception, HIV screening, lactation consultation and supplies, and yearly check-ups.
For those who do not have insurance, the state of Illinois is expected to expand Medicaid coverage in 2014.
Lynda DeLaforgue, co-director of Citizen Action/Illinois, said, "Today is an historic day for women. For the first time, we are going to have access to preventative health care. Without having the barriers of co-pays and deductibles, women will be able to get basic preventative care."
Two-time cancer survivor Cynthia Cycon said, "It certainly gives people an opportunity to … receive an earlier diagnosis, because since these services are completely covered, women will be more likely to have mammography, or go in for their pap smear."
Cycon says she pays insurance coverage to three different companies because of her pre-existing condition. By 2014, through the Affordable Care Act, those with pre-existing conditions cannot be denied coverage.
"I see the opportunity to have health insurance, whether or not you have a pre-existing condition and have the opportunity perhaps in a health exchange to choose one police which you feel is right for you, is lifesaving," Cycon said.
Effective now, when a person's policy renews or they get new insurance, a child under the age of 19 will automatically have insurance even if they have a pre-existing condition.
The new health care law not only provides women with preventive care, but men and children too. Everyone can get immunizations – like flu shots – along with screenings for different cancers, high blood pressure, cholesterol and depression.
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