Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started
My Medicine

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Why Was I Charged for Preventive Care?

woman confused

Under the Affordable Care Act, most insurers must cover the full cost of preventive care such as checkups, vaccinations, and screenings. But many people end up surprised when the doctor visit they thought was free suddenly comes with a bill. What gives?

Here are five things to think about to avoid surprise costs at your next doctor’s appointment.

1. Know what’s considered preventive: The Affordable Care Act requires most insurers to cover the full cost of many preventive services with no co-payments or other out-of-pocket costs. (If you have a grandfathered health plan, however, this requirement does not apply.)

Preventive services include vaccinations, annual well-visits, colonoscopies, cancer and other health screenings, which in most cases are available free of charge. You can view a full list of preventive services at

2. Pay attention to the details. The guidelines for preventive services are set by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, a panel of health care experts. It’s not enough to look for the services the task force recommends; you also need to be mindful of the specific guidelines of each service.

For example, although colonoscopies are a recommended preventive test, the guidelines state that it’s only preventive for people 50 and older when recommended by a physician. If you go for a colonoscopy at 40, the test likely won’t be considered preventive, and you’ll be charged.

3. Know your health plan’s rules. Health plans have some flexibility when it comes to interpreting the guidelines.

For example, mammograms are a preventive exam recommended every 1 or 2 years for women over 40. That means your health plan may pay for the test each year for women over 40, or it may only pay for the test once every 2 years. You need to confirm your plan’s coverage guidelines.

4. Provider networks matter. Even if the nature of your visit is preventive, if you go to a doctor outside of your plan’s network, all bets are off. You can be charged for the visit.

5. Medical complaints aren’t preventive. Even if you’ve gone in for a well visit, once you ask the doctor to examine you for the headaches you’ve been having for the past 6 months or to check on your stomach troubles, the visit is no longer preventive and you’ll be charged.

You can avoid unexpected bills by being clear with your doctor’s office about all the reasons for your visit when you make your appointment.

Have you been surprised by a bill for what you thought were preventive services? Please share your experience in the comments section.


The opinions expressed in WebMD Second Opinion are solely those of the User, who may or may not have medical or scientific training. These opinions do not represent the opinions of WebMD. Second Opinion are... Expand


Subscribe to free WebMD newsletters.

  • WebMD Daily

    WebMD Daily

    Subscribe to the WebMD Daily, and you'll get today's top health news and trending topics, and the latest and best information from WebMD.

  • Men's Health

    Men's Health

    Subscribe to the Men's Health newsletter for the latest on disease prevention, fitness, sex, nutrition, and more from WebMD.

  • Women's Health

    Women's Health

    Subscribe to the Women's Health newsletter for the latest on disease prevention, fitness, sex, diet, anti-aging, and more from WebMD.

By clicking Submit, I agree to the WebMD Terms & Conditions & Privacy Policy and understand that I may opt out of WebMD subscriptions at any time.

URAC: Accredited Health Web Site TRUSTe online privacy certification HONcode Seal AdChoices