Despite increasing emphasis on disease prevention and health promotion, and ample evidence demonstrating the effectiveness of preventive services, such services are underutilized in the United States. The current trend of health care toward health maintenance organizations and other managed care systems opens the door, perhaps to more effective control of heart disease, cancers and other chronic diseases through preventive care. This warrants attention to the barriers/facilitators to the provision/utilization of preventive screening services in such settings. Overall goal of this study was to assess barriers/facilitators to the provision/utilization of preventive services in managed care organizations (MCOs). This was accomplished by a) identifying barriers/facilitators to the provision/utilization of three common preventive screening services (cholesterol screenings, mammograms, and Pap smears); and b) profiling typical MCO recipients of these three preventive screening services. A self- administered, mail questionnaire was used to obtain information from a national sample of 1,200 Directors of MCOs associated with preventive care. A total of 175 usable responses were received resulting in a 17.3 percent net response rate. The strongest barrier to the provision of all three screening services is the inability of them to generate short term savings for the MCO. Other barriers include high disenrollment rates, conflicting recommendations about effectiveness (for mammograms and cholesterol screenings), and patients' fears of getting a positive result (for mammograms and Pap smears). The improved health status as a result of early intervention, high consumer awareness (for mammograms and Pap smears), and long term savings are important facilitators to the provision/utilization of these screening services. Comparing barriers and facilitators across the three services shows the stronger barriers affecting the provision/utilization of mammograms. For all three screening services, typical managed care recipients are those in the high income groups with greater education levels. However, with the increasing enrollment of Medicaid beneficiaries into managed care, MCOs may find themselves selectively targeting these high risk low income and less educated individuals to receive the preventive screening services. Study findings should be useful to health planners, policymakers and researchers at all levels in their efforts to encourage and promote healthier lifestyle choices among U.S. residents. Future studies should address receipt of preventive services by Medicaid and Medicare beneficiaries in managed care settings.