Confusion about insurance coverage for cervical cancer screenings contributes to missed screening


Kyra Meister

Alexandria, Va. – Cervical cancer: What was once the leading cause of cancer deaths among women in the U.S. is now one of the most preventable cancers thanks to the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine and cervical cancer screening.1 But confusion around the cost of cervical cancer screening is contributing to missed screenings, according to the annual Early Detection Survey from the Prevent Cancer Foundation®. Survey participants cited an inability to afford the cost (29%) as the top reason for not being up to date on their cervical cancer screening.

The 2023 survey shows 41% of American women are not up to date on cervical cancer screenings.2 This indicates an urgent need to discuss the cost of cervical cancer screening, as many people may be unaware cervical cancer screenings are covered through Medicaid and most private insurance plans. Increased understanding of the costs could mean fewer people miss out on essential preventive care.

Insurers are required to cover cervical cancer screenings for anyone with a cervix aged 21-65 because the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) has issued it an “A” grade. Let’s break that down: 

  • The USPSTF—a group of medical experts who establish recommendations on certain health services, such as cancer screenings—assign a letter grade (A, B, C, D or I) on whether the services should be performed.  
  • Per the Affordable Care Act, Medicaid and private insurers are required to cover services, without copay, that are given an “A” or “B” grade.  
  • That means, under current law, if you have health insurance and you have a cervix, your cervical cancer screenings are covered.

In May 2018, the World Health Organization (WHO) announced a global call for action to eliminate cervical cancer within the next century, with achievable goals to be reached by 2030. While advances towards this goal have been made worldwide, significant disparities exist. The elimination of cervical cancer will be severely hindered without proper education across all populations about screening, insurance coverage and HPV vaccination.

Cervical cancer is most often caused by HPV infection, which can often be prevented with the HPV vaccine. All children should receive the HPV vaccine between ages 9-12. “Catch-up” vaccination is also recommended for teens and young adults up to age 26. If the HPV vaccine is given as recommended, it can prevent more than 90% of HPV-related cancers, including more than 90% of cervical cancers.3 Anyone with a cervix, regardless of vaccination status, should be screened for cervical cancer per recommendations.

People of average risk should follow these guidelines:

From ages 21 to 29: Have a Pap test every 3 years. (With a Pap test, you can find and remove precancerous cells before cancer develops.)

From ages 30 to 65: Have any of these options: 

  • A Pap test alone every 3 years. 
  • A high-risk HPV test alone every 5 years. 
  • A high-risk HPV test with a Pap test (co-testing) every 5 years.

After age 65: Talk with your health care provider about whether you still need to be screened.

If you are at higher risk for cervical cancer because of a suppressed immune system (for example, from HIV infection, organ or stem-cell transplant or long-term steroid use), because you were exposed to DES in utero or because you have had cervical cancer or certain precancerous conditions, you may need to be screened more often. Follow the recommendations of your health care provider.

The cost of screening may still be a concern for those who are uninsured. Fortunately, there are free and low-cost screening options available in many communities. Early Detection = Better Outcomes, and everyone deserves an opportunity to check their health and prevent cancer or detect it early.

Information and resources on all cancer types studied in the 2023 Early Detection Survey—including information on relevant screenings—can be found at The Prevent Cancer Foundation will release updated results from the 2024 Early Detection Survey in April. For more information about cervical cancer and ways to reduce your risk, visit

1National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion

2The cancer screenings studied in this survey were for breast cancer, cervical cancer, colorectal cancer, oral cancer, lung cancer, prostate cancer, skin cancer and testicular cancer.

3National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases


About the Prevent Cancer Foundation®

The Prevent Cancer Foundation® is the only U.S.-based nonprofit organization solely dedicated to cancer prevention and early detection. Through research, education, outreach and advocacy, we have helped countless people avoid a cancer diagnosis or detect their cancer early enough to be successfully treated. We are driven by a vision of a world where cancer is preventable, detectable and beatable for all

The Foundation is rising to meet the challenge of reducing cancer deaths by 40% by 2035. To achieve this, we are committed to investing $20 million for innovative technologies to detect cancer early and advance multi-cancer screening, $10 million to expand cancer screening and vaccination access to medically underserved communities, and $10 million to educate the public about screening and vaccination options.

For more information, please visit