(Updated January 2019) Different places charge very different prices for an STD test.
We know a 27-year-old man with a common problem. He’s uninsured, he’s not wealthy, and he wanted to know: How much does an STD test cost?
This man is sexually active, and he recently learned that an ex-girlfriend has been diagnosed with a sexually transmitted disease (STD). Although their relationship ended months ago, he was exposed to chlamydia, which is one of the most common and most treatable STDs. (Here are the facts about chlamydia, and here’s a fact sheet that lists STDs.)
At age 27, this man is no longer eligible for coverage under his parents’ health insurance. This is the first time since the coverage expired that he has needed a doctor. He has a job as a contracted employee that does not offer health insurance, and he has very little cash flow, with rent and basic living expenses taking the bulk of his paycheck.
So he went searching for a place to be tested cheaply. Or even better, free.
A number of in-home testing services have sprung up, offering very different kinds of results, as this NPR story explains. Here’s one passage; for the full state of affairs, check out the story. “The idea of online STD testing isn’t new, but most services so far have been localized, limited in test options or still require visiting a lab or pharmacy. For example, residents of Maryland, Washington, D.C., and Alaska can request kits to be mailed to them with self-collection instructions and materials for genital and/or rectal swabs, but only for gonorrhea, chlamydia and trichomoniasis,” via IWTK, a service run by a research lab at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. Planned Parenthood has begun offering similar services through an app.
More than a dozen commercial companies nationally let consumers order STD testing kits online for other infections, but buyers may still have to visit a local lab for sample collection. The online businesses aim to offer many more tests without customers needing to go anywhere except the mailbox.
The two business models are subscription-based or one-off orders: Consumers order the test, receive it in the mail, collect their own blood, urine, genital and/or rectal samples, mail samples back in a prepaid envelope and then wait until results are available to check online. One company, GetTested, has ceased operation, according to a spokesperson. Another, Mately, doesn’t appear operational and did not respond to multiple attempts to request an interview. That leaves myLABbox, which has been tweaking services since its launch in December 2013.
STD Test Prices
So how much does an STD screening cost?
At ClearHealthCosts, we have heard about New York STD tests ranging from $25 to $350.
If a patient visits a clinic for an STD screening, he or she may first have to pay a doctor’s visit fee, which can cost anywhere from nothing to $200. The tests themselves are typically billed by the laboratory that analyzes them, which can be separate from the clinic. But certain clinics will offer some tests at a fixed price. So:
• one clinic in Manhattan offers patients gonorrhea and chlamydia tests for $25;
• another charges $45 for several STD tests, and no lab fee;
• and a third clinic charges $200 to conduct the tests in-house and send them to a lab, plus whatever the lab decides to charge to process the results.
Some places charge less for women than for men.
Our young man considered the NYU Langone Medical Center in Manhattan, which has a free clinic for testing, but after a phone call to the clinic, he said he felt it was too impersonal.
“Everybody knows about Planned Parenthood,” was his answer when we asked what came to mind once the free clinic was eliminated from his search. Planned Parenthood is not free, but it’s less costly than some places, and he knew other uninsured people his age who turned to Planned Parenthood for medical testing. (Here’s where to find your nearest Planned Parenthood.)
At Planned Parenthood, he was tested for chlamydia and gonorrhea. (He didn’t know whether he’d been exposed to gonorrhea on top of chlamydia, but he decided to get the test just to be safe.) Cost: $175.
“You just walk in — they give you a blood test and urinalysis,” he said. “If you don’t hear back after a week, that means your test came back negative.” His test was negative.
Our young man suggested that a lot of young people might feel uneasy telling a doctor that they want to be tested for an STD. The reason many uninsured people his age turn to Planned Parenthood, regardless of the cost, is that “they don’t ask questions.”
He had the advantage of knowing which STD he was exposed to. Here’s that fact sheet from the CDC that lists STD’s.
Questions You Can Ask A Clinic
We don’t give medical advice but we can offer a few tips.
With any testing option, do your homework and shop around. Be careful of what you’re buying and who you’re buying it from. We’ve learned that it pays to find out what specific STD you’ve been exposed to, and to make a few phone calls to clinics.
When you call a clinic, you can:
• Ask to speak to a counselor.
• Ask: How much does each test cost individually?
• Ask: How much for a complete set of tests?
• Ask: Is a complete set of tests necessary, if I know what STD I was exposed to?
• Ask: Who will be seeing me? What are his/her credentials?.
• Ask: Will I have another checkup to be sure that I’m completely healthy?
These questions can help you save money and settle your mind.
For other cities, use our search box and the search “STD test.”
A Closer Look at One Service
We recently heard about a website called SameDaySTDTesting, which breaks down available clinics by state (here’s the New York site). The site touts itself as “The Nation’s #1 STD Testing Company,” so we decided to look into it.
We couldn’t find a lot of information about SameDaySTDTesting. Their Web page isn’t very informative about who they are or where their tests are done. Like every website, they have an official address available through WhoIs, but it shows a generic “DomainsByProxy” address in Arizona.
An interview with a department manager at SameDaySTDTesting said that the difference between them and Planned Parenthood is that they do a “4th generation test.” The manager said this type of test is basically an updated, and more thorough, blood test and a urinalysis. SameDaySTDTesting says their tests cover all the STDs, including HIV and herpes. They also claim to be more comprehensive by taking into consideration the date that the person was exposed. This all comes at a price, though: $325.
I tried to call a second time in order to expand on this information. I wanted to understand their exact procedure once the patient walks in the door, and to learn more about where their laboratory is located. This resulted in a hang-up when I identified myself as a journalist with ClearHealthCosts. A third phone call, in which I asked why they hung up on me, was met with this response: “We’re busy right now, I will transfer you to the person that will handle this.”
“May I have his name?” I asked.
The response: “Ross, that’s all you need to know.” Then I was transferred to five minutes of piped music.
Buyer beware! You have a right to ask these things. If this website calls itself the “#1 STD Testing Company,” yet they are unable to answer basic questions, then would you trust them with personal information like your STD test results?