In theory, your health comes before everything else, and and there are few things more worth your money than the costs to maintain it. In theory. Before today, nearly half of American women between the ages of 19 and 64 avoided doctor visits and medical services because they didn't want to pay for them, a 2010 Commonwealth Fund survey revealed. However, new measures that come into effect on August 1 under the Affordable Care Act could change that statistic.

While there's still a ways to go before all women have unencumbered access to preventive benefits like contraception, STI testing and breastfeeding support, several important procedures and services are available to many insured women free of charge (that's right -- no copay or cost-sharing) starting today.

Under the new rules, eight services -- identified for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services by the Institute of Medicine -- join 14 other preventive services for women (such as mammograms and cervical cancer screenings) that have been covered under the Affordable Care Act since September, 2010. A report cited by Health Secretary Kathleen Sebelius in a blog for HuffPost this week says the new measure should bring preventive services to 47 million women. Ryan Gosling has yet to comment.

So how do you know if the change applies to you, now? Read on.

LOOK: 13 Things To Know About The Affordable Care Act No Co-Pay Rule

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  • 1. You might not be covered right away

    The services listed on the following slides will indeed be free for many -- but not immediately. <a href="http://www.healthcare.gov/news/factsheets/2011/08/womensprevention08012011a.html" target="_hplink">The new benefits will only be activated for plans that begin or are renewed on or after August 1</a> -- so even if you are already insured, it may be months before you see the practical effects.

  • 2. Some plans can stick with the old rules, for now

    Certain insurance plans (those that have not made "significant changes that reduce benefits or increase costs to consumers" since September 23, 2010) can still abide by older rules governing preventive care costs; <a href="http://www.healthcare.gov/law/features/rights/grandfathered-plans/index.html" target="_hplink">more general information about these "grandfathered" plans is available here</a>.

  • 3. Religious employers are a special case

    <a href="http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2012/02/10/fact-sheet-women-s-preventive-services-and-religious-institutions" target="_hplink">This White House fact sheet</a> has the details on the Affordable Care Act's requirements for religious organizations regarding contraceptive coverage: "[I]f a woman works for a religious employer with objections to providing contraceptive services as part of its health plan, the religious employer will not be required to provide, pay for or refer for contraception coverage, but her insurance company will be required to directly offer her contraceptive care free of charge." Religious employers also have "a one-year transition period ... while this policy is being implemented."

  • 4. Not all appointment costs are covered

    The new measure doesn't mean your doctor <em>appointments</em> will all be free. Coverage is only guaranteed if you go to a network provider, and <a href="http://www.healthcare.gov/law/features/rights/preventive-care/" target="_hplink">the Department of Health and Human Services points out</a> that you may need to pay additional fees "if the preventive service is not the primary purpose of the visit, or if your doctor bills you for the preventive services separately from the office visit."

  • 5. Plans may charge cost sharing for branded drugs

    <a href="http://www.healthcare.gov/news/factsheets/2011/08/womensprevention08012011a.html" target="_hplink">The Department of Health and Human Services notes</a>: "Plans will retain the flexibility to control costs and promote efficient delivery of care by, for example, continuing to charge cost sharing for branded drugs if a generic version is available and just as effective and safe."

  • 6. Covered: Contraception

    "All Food and Drug Administration approved contraceptive methods, sterilization procedures, and patient education and counseling for all women with reproductive capacity" will be covered. (via <a href="http://www.hrsa.gov/womensguidelines/" target="_hplink">U.S. Department of Health and Human Services</a>)

  • 7. Covered: Well-woman visits

    The new preventive care measure provides for a "well-woman preventive care visit annually for adult women to obtain the recommended preventive services that are age and developmentally appropriate, including preconception and prenatal care." The visit may include other preventive services, and "HHS recognizes that several visits may be needed to obtain all necessary recommended preventive services." (via <a href="http://www.hrsa.gov/womensguidelines/" target="_hplink">U.S. Department of Health and Human Services</a>)

  • 8. Covered: Breastfeeding support and supplies

    "Comprehensive lactation support and counseling, by a trained provider during pregnancy and/or in the postpartum period, and costs for renting breastfeeding equipment" will all be covered. (via <a href="http://www.hrsa.gov/womensguidelines/" target="_hplink">U.S. Department of Health and Human Services</a>)

  • 9. Covered: Annual STI counseling

    "These sessions have been shown to reduce risky behavior in patients, yet only 28 percent of women aged 18-44 years reported that they had discussed STIs with a doctor or nurse," the <a href="http://www.healthcare.gov/news/factsheets/2011/08/womensprevention08012011a.html" target="_hplink">Department of Health and Human Services</a> says.

  • 10. Covered: Annual HIV screening and counseling

    The <a href="http://www.healthcare.gov/news/factsheets/2011/08/womensprevention08012011a.html" target="_hplink">Department of Health and Human Services says</a> that "sexually-active women will have access to annual counseling on HIV."

  • 11. Covered: Gestational diabetes screening

    The new guidelines require that plans cover gestational diabetes screening "in pregnant women between 24 and 28 weeks of gestation and at the first prenatal visit for pregnant women identified to be at high risk for diabetes." (via <a href="http://www.hrsa.gov/womensguidelines/" target="_hplink">U.S. Department of Health and Human Services</a>)

  • 12. Covered: HPV testing

    Plans will fully cover "high-risk human papillomavirus DNA testing in women with normal cytology results," beginning at age 30 and "occur[ring] no more frequently than every 3 years." (via <a href="http://www.hrsa.gov/womensguidelines/" target="_hplink">U.S. Department of Health and Human Services</a>)

  • 13. Covered: Interpersonal and domestic violence care

    The <a href="http://www.healthcare.gov/news/factsheets/2011/08/womensprevention08012011a.html" target="_hplink">Department of Health and Human Services</a> says: "Screening and counseling for interpersonal and domestic violence" -- which aids "early detection and effectiveness of interventions" -- "should be provided for all adolescent and adult women."