Preventive Care or Medical Care? Learn the Difference

Preventive Care or Medical Care? Learn the Difference

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Many people may not know that there are two types of care you can receive when you go to the doctor — preventive care and medical care. The type of care is different, and your costs may be different, too.

Medical Care vs. Preventive Care

Think about how people use health care based on their needs. A person with a chronic disease may need to see a doctor or specialist often. Others may have occasional injuries or infections. Treatment of disease and injury is considered medical care.

So What Is Preventive Care?

Proper diet, exercise and healthy lifestyle can all help avoid certain health problems. Preventive care does the same thing. Preventive screenings can help catch problems early, before you notice symptoms.

Yearly preventive exams and screenings may include:

Sometimes Preventive Care and Medical Care Cross Paths

There are both “screening” and “diagnostic” versions of many tests, such as mammograms and colonoscopies. A screening version is considered preventive care. Preventive screenings are usually ordered at certain ages and at regular intervals when there is no reason to suspect a problem.

If a person has symptoms or anything looks unusual on a screening test, they may need a diagnostic test, which is considered medical care. Diagnostic tests take a closer look to see if disease is present.

The technology for diagnostic and medical tests may be similar. But where and when you take them and who reads the results are different. The out-of-pocket costs may also be different.

It’s a good idea to find out what your out-of-pocket costs will be before you schedule your appointment. Check with your doctor’s office to see which kind of test you’ll be getting. And check your benefits or call the customer service number on your member ID card to get the details about your coverage and costs for the test.

Why Fix What Isn’t Broken?

Even if you feel healthy, once a year you should get a preventive checkup from your doctor. Preventive care may help you avoid some health problems, or find health problems early, when your chances for treatment and cure are better.

A preventive checkup is worth your time and effort because:

  • It can catch disease early and may lead to better health outcomes and lower costs.
  • Six in 10 American adults have a chronic disease. Four in 10 have four or more chronic diseases.
  • These diseases are a leading cause of death and disability in the U.S. These conditions are preventable or treatable in many cases.

Preventive care screenings can catch the very early signs that this type of condition is developing when lifestyle and dietary changes may help lower risk or even reverse the condition.

Our qualified* health plans cover most preventive health care services with no out-of-pocket costs when you go to your primary care provider or medical group (for HMOs) or a doctor or medical center in your plan’s network (non-HMO plans). You pay no copay or coinsurance even if you haven’t met your deductible.

You can find complete details of the preventive services your plan covers in your benefit book. To make sure a doctor or clinic is in your plan’s network, use our Provider Finder® tool. Log in to Blue Access for MembersSM click My Health in the top navigation. Then click Find Care to find a provider in your plan's network.

*If you have a grandfathered plan (a plan that was in existence on or before March 23, 2010), preventive care without out-of-pocket costs may not apply to you.
Sources: National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, leaving site icon Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; Fast Facts: Health and Economic Costs of Chronic Diseases, leaving site icon CDC, 2024; About Chronic Diseases, leaving site icon CDC, 2024

Originally published 12/30/2019, Revised 2020, 2021, 2022, 2023, 2024