OBJECTIVES: This study explored whether type of outpatient health coverage affected the likelihood of men and women aged 20 to 64 years receiving recommended cancer screening procedures. METHODS: Data from the 1989 and 1990 California Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance Surveys were used to compare Pap smear, mammogram, fecal occult blood test, and proctoscopic examination rates for adults with three different types of private health care coverage (Group/staff model health maintenance organization, Independent Practice Association Model health maintenance organization, indemnity plan) and no outpatient health insurance. Logistic regression models were used to control for sociodemographic and health characteristics and whether individuals had a usual health care provider. RESULTS: Individuals with Group Model health maintenance organization coverage were significantly more likely than those with indemnity plans to have had recent cervical, breast, and colorectal cancer screening, whereas screening likelihood for those with Independent Practice Association model health maintenance organization coverage did not differ substantially from those with indemnity plans. Individuals with no outpatient coverage were less likely to be screened than those with outpatient coverage. The most consistently significant predictor across cancer screening procedures for both men and women was having a usual doctor who knew their medical history. CONCLUSIONS: Adults who had private outpatient insurance were more likely to undergo recommended cancer detection procedures than those who did not. Adults who belonged to a health maintenance organization, which emphasizes and pays for a broader spectrum preventive care, were more likely to receive Pap smears, mammograms, and fecal occult blood tests than those covered by indemnity plans. Receiving care primarily from one doctor significantly increased the likelihood of having screening procedures, irrespective of type of health plan.