In my editor’s letter in the January 2012 issue of 5280 Health, I assured readers that in the coming year we would keep tabs on how the Affordable Care Act (read: “Obamacare”) will affect Coloradans on a daily basis. Yesterday, I came across one of the law’s newer guidelines.

As I checked in with the receptionist at my doctor’s office, I noticed a bright red notice posted next to the sign-in sheet. It read: “According to the New Healthcare Reform Law Most Preventive Services, i.e. Annual Exams are covered at 100%. Therefore, a co-pay WILL NOT be collected for this visit.” I put my checkbook back in my purse, but wondered why I had been asked to fork over a co-pay in February 2011 but not in February 2012.

Although Americans still have no idea what the ultimate result of Obamacare will be, it might behoove us all to take some time to understand what facets of the legislation are already in effect—and which ones are coming to a medical office near you in the not-so-distant future. According to, the reason my wallet was $20 heavier after my annual exam in 2012 as opposed to the one in 2011 is due to a new statute. Since September 2010, the Affordable Care Act has required new insurance plans to cover certain preventive services without a deductible, co-pay, or coinsurance. But as of August 1, 2011, Obamacare has expanded that part of the plan to include women’s preventive services in particular. Things like well-woman check-ups, screenings for gestational diabetes, testing for human papillomavirus and HIV, counseling for contraceptive methods, and breastfeeding support are now officially considered “preventive” care and do not carry a co-pay.

To learn more about the past and future implementation of the Affordable Care Act—whether your pro, con, or neutral—visit The timeline feature under the “Health Care Law & You tab is particularly helpful.