Colonoscopy Cost and Experience
July 16, 2009 2:44 PM   Subscribe

How much did you pay for your colonoscopy? Also, what can you tell me of your experience with this procedure?

My insurance (Unicare) has a $5,000 deductible. I will likely be paying the full discounted cost, but what that will be is hard to know.
I have read that the doctor and the insurance company won't disclose the contracted price until the procedure is done and billing is completed.
Also, I live in Austin, TX.
posted by noonknight to Health & Fitness (28 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Usually, with health insurance plans, there is an allowance for preventative care which does not cost anything, even if the deductible has not been reached.

You should look at your plan, and if this is not the case, Ouch! Good luck with it.
posted by Danf at 2:46 PM on July 16, 2009

The coverage and deductible depends on the insurance plan.
Be sure that you ask for sedation. You will be required to provide a driver that will stay in the treatment office while the procedure is performed. They cannot leave the building. You cannot use a taxi, etc.
The sedation they often use is called a "twilight" because it is not completely out, but you will remember nothing at all.
The prep for it is the worst part of the whole thing.
posted by Drasher at 3:02 PM on July 16, 2009

Yes, I can tell you my experience, which was great.

Mine cost $1,273
posted by mmw at 3:05 PM on July 16, 2009

My colonoscopy cost $1,414. It was really a "non-event" for me. Someone drove me home but no complications on discomfort.
posted by JayRwv at 3:13 PM on July 16, 2009

My husband had one a couple of years ago. He had some mild ... er, discomfort ... afterward, requiring us to find a public restroom in a hurry on the way home. Moral of the story? Pay attention to your body afterward, and don't try to be a stud by saying you feel fine, when you don't. We could have stayed at the hospital a little while longer while he rested more comfortably (and been closer to the restroom), than the front seat of my compact car.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 3:25 PM on July 16, 2009

Mine was actually kind of fun. They had warned me in advance of a 'fair amount of pain', but I had none at all (other than some light cramping when I was on my way home on my bicycle, due to the air that had been pumped in.) No sedation of any kind. The doctor kept warning me repeatedly to 'please speak up if it hurts', as pain is apparently a signal that they are pushing it in the wrong place, etc.

She arranged the video screen so that I could watch too, and it was a hoot. I'm so pink inside!

As for the cost, there wasn't any (I'm in Japan).
posted by woodblock100 at 3:45 PM on July 16, 2009 [1 favorite]

The sedation they often use is called a "twilight" because it is not completely out, but you will remember nothing at all.
My mother had one last week and she didn't fall asleep and she remembers everything, including giving the doctor the phone number of her recently divorced friend.
posted by HotPatatta at 4:06 PM on July 16, 2009 [2 favorites]

A decade ago, before I had insurance, mine cost roughly $1700. Can't remember the cost with insurance.

I've had both twilight sedation (worked as advertised) and I've had IV-administered painkillers (demerol--did nothing for pain even when they double-dosed me because it wasn't working, and made me vomit after).

The worst part every time has been, yep, the prep. If they can give you the pills to clean you out instead of the damn liquid to drink--GO FOR IT.
posted by elfgirl at 4:30 PM on July 16, 2009

My husband's procedure, including twilight sedation, cost about $1300. We have a $1500 deductible, but for some odd reason, the insurance company is covering half of it. His was not a preventative procedure (it was exploratory, looking for some source to his persistent butt troubles).

He had to do a Miralax and humungous bottle of Gatorade prep, which went well. He began drinking the stuff at about four in the afternoon, after work, and started bathroom time around six. He stayed close to the bathroom and although it tapered off at about ten at night, he was still feeling the effects the next morning. The procedure was quick, didn't hurt and he doesn't remember any of the following conversation or events, so have someone with you to take notes and get you home (really, getting home alone after a procedure like this isn't the wisest idea if you don't know how your body will react to anesthesia and a thorough ass-plumbing). He also got a neat pair of hospital socks, which he lovingly calls his colon-blow socks.
posted by theraflu at 4:52 PM on July 16, 2009

I have never paid for my colonoscopies. I've had three so far, and I expect to have many more because of my Crohn's disease.

My first one was pretty easy - I took about 28 pills between two days to prep for it. I obviously was at home the whole time and I did have to be near a toilet. It's not so bad. They put me under using "twilight sedation," which wasn't too hard to come out of.

My second one was done after I was admitted into the hospital. I had a nasogastric tube in then (a tube that goes through your nose into your stomach - it's not too fun), so they put about a gallon of the not so aptly-named "GoLytely" through it. The sedation was the same, though.

My third was done a few weeks after being discharged from the hospital (a different stay, though). I did it the Miralax way this time, and I mixed it into Sprite. To me, it gave the Sprite a very sweet taste, almost like the way that Sprite Zero tastes. This was worse because I had to drink quite a lot of it. The sedation was also the same.

All three times I recall maybe having some minor discomfort afterwards, similar to gas pains and a lot of gas.
posted by majikstreet at 5:09 PM on July 16, 2009

...what can you tell me of your experience with this procedure?

Be sure to check out this previous AskMe.
posted by ericb at 5:15 PM on July 16, 2009

I had one in Houston in 2005. At the time, I had a $5000 deductible policy. The doctor said I needed one because of various symptoms I displayed then, and sent me back to his office manager to make arrangements. She said almost immediately something like, "Before I can schedule this I need a payment of one thousand dollars." I can still hear her voice...

After the procedure, I received a bill for a few more hundred dollars from his office. In addition to that doctor's fee, there was also a facility charge from the hospital and a charge from the pathologist who examined a sample. All that added on maybe six or seven hundred dollars more and it was all told close to $2000.

It turns out that although the health insurance would not pay for the procedure, they did process a claim indicating their allowed amounts, which would have been used as the basis for the claim had my deductible been met. I was able to use this as a basis to request a refund from the doctor who had the largest charges, and they did actually write me a check. The net result was maybe $1500 or $1600.

I think that the reason why the "discounted price" -- allowance, in other words -- is not disclosed is partly because they won't really what it all will be until there is an itemized bill. In addition, perhaps there are business and competitive reasons not to disclose this: Your health insurance company might not want other health insurance companies to know what it's allowances are, or if they vary by provider group. (Just thinking out loud... I used to work for a health insurance administrator many years ago.)

The actual procedure was entirely uneventful. They gave me a mild sedative and I fell asleep until it was over. The prep was the most unpleasant part. Everything turned out well.
posted by Robert Angelo at 5:32 PM on July 16, 2009

I was paid around $500 to have a colonoscopy as a "healthy normal" research subject. Which is a good thing, because during the procedure they found (and removed!) a small polyp. Quite the wake-up call for an uninsured freelancer.

If you're within traveling distance of New York, contact Long Island Clinical Research Associates to participate in any of their gastrointestinal studies. Whether you have a condition to treat or are just being proactive, it's truly the best deal going in health care.
posted by aquafortis at 6:22 PM on July 16, 2009 [1 favorite]

The procedure is no big deal, really. It's the prep that's generally no fun. As noted by others, take your time in the recovery room, at least until you've farted out all they air they've blown into you so they can look around in there.
posted by beagle at 6:24 PM on July 16, 2009

We are in Canada and so it cost nothing. My partner's was uneventful (I was in the room with him the entire time) and he reported that, thanks to the Ativan he was prescribed and took beforehand, it was much less painful (and much less dramatic) than a barium enema.
posted by ethnomethodologist at 6:41 PM on July 16, 2009

My co-pay was around $80 for the colon probe and the endscopy The whole thing was great. I had been really ill for quite a while, or else I'm evil and filled with bile, so despite being a little uncomfortable drinking a half-gallon of liquid, and having to go to the bathroom every 15 minutes for a couple of hours, the day before was the best I had felt in weeks and weeks.

I was 100% out for the procedure so I felt fine. And then I woke up with no back pain (a chronic thing with me) and still felt great.

Also, it was a relief to find out there was nothing wrong with my innards.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 7:19 PM on July 16, 2009

I didn't keep the benefits statement so I don't have hard numbers. I think $1200 sounds about right for what our insurance paid up, plus another $250 in other diagnostic appointments before the procedure to determine that the colonoscopy was required. We skipped followup.
posted by crazycanuck at 9:01 PM on July 16, 2009

I'm Canadian, so no cost to me. I've had three colonoscopies (one every five years) as my father had colon cancer. The prep to get a clean bowel is by far the worst part of the procedure. I've done the fluids to clear fluids to fasting (not so bad although I was hungry); enema plus about 6 oz of some sort of citrusy Drano for humans (not so bad either); drinking 4 litres of foul-tasting different kind of human Drano, 2 litres of which I promptly threw up. If I have a choice I'd do the orange flavoured Drano + enema.

I was apprehensive and embarassed about the first one. I was given some sort of happy juice via an IV and I vaguely remember the event. I do remember clearly that after the sedative they could have brought the entire cast, crew, and horses of Ben Hur through the treatment room and I couldn't have cared less.

Both the second and third were equally routine. I anticipated some pain when having a bowel movement after the procedure but in fact everything was completely normal. No pain, no cramps, a little gassy for a couple of hours.

I'm even looking forward to my next one in four years: I get to have the whole day off and feel fine for nearly all of it.
posted by angiep at 9:07 PM on July 16, 2009

Prep kinda sucked. Procedure itself was a piece of cake. I'd rather have it done than get a filling at the dentist.
posted by DieHipsterDie at 9:33 PM on July 16, 2009

I used a prep called 'Pico-prep' when I had mine done. It was literally just two 500ml glasses of prep a few hours apart. I highly recommend this over what my brother went through (he described it as 'drinking 4 liters of sea water').
posted by Jerub at 9:59 PM on July 16, 2009

'drinking 4 liters of sea water'

That's GoLytely. I've had that prep twice and neither time was I able to make it all the way through the whole gallon. The second time I started vomiting after 2/3 of the jug.

Horrible stuff.
posted by elfgirl at 5:49 AM on July 17, 2009

As for the cost, there wasn't any (I'm in Japan).
We are in Canada and so it cost nothing.
I'm Canadian, so no cost to me.

Of course this is very "incorrect" of me to point out, but each of these procedures had a cost. If you are a productive member of one of these societies, you paid for your own colonoscopy, and those of quite a few of your fellow citizens, when you paid your taxes. If you are not productive enough to pay high tax rates, your procedure was paid for by your fellow citizens, and you are essentially their ward, at least as far as medical care goes.

I live in the U.S., and have the very best dental care Canada has to offer. You see, my dentist is Canadian, but moved to the States to practice in an atmosphere where he can provide a higher level of care, in a more timely manner, and at a higher rate of remuneration.
posted by dinger at 9:20 AM on July 17, 2009

you paid for your own colonoscopy

I think we understand that very well. In my case, when I said 'there wasn't any cost', I was referring to the immediate 'out of pocket' cost of the procedure - the amount I had to pay to the hospital that afternoon. I pay very 'healthy' (if I can use that word!) medical insurance premiums, and in the twenty-plus years that I have lived in Japan, have never even remotely come close to drawing as much out of the system as I have paid in.

If you are not productive enough to pay high tax rates, your procedure was paid for by your fellow citizens, and you are essentially their ward

Yeah, right. Just the same way that when my house burns down I get a new one 'free' because my neighbours pay for it. That's what insurance means - risk is spread across the entire group. Some will 'win', and some will 'lose'. In our system over here, because the 'group' consists of the entire population, we can spread such risk extremely thinly, coming as close as possible to the most optimal balance between cost/benefit.
posted by woodblock100 at 10:33 AM on July 17, 2009

The original question was "How much did your procedure cost?" If you live in a country with socialized medicine, it is incorrect to answer "nothing". And in the case of socialized medicine, the use of the word "insurance" is a polite euphemism; true insurance is a pay-to-play game where, as you so rightly point out, risk is shared. But only those who pay premiums, which are adjusted up or down to reflect the insured's risk, are covered.

If you are paying more into the system than your risk would dictate in an open market, I commend you on your altruism. You may have had the most expensive colonoscopy of all.
posted by dinger at 1:47 PM on July 17, 2009

your altruism

Altruism does not enter into it. At the end of the year, when my house is still standing, I don't say to myself, "Shit, I completely wasted all those insurance payments!" I received exactly the product that I had intended to purchase - protection. The fact that I didn't 'use' it was inconsequential.

So it is with my medical care. I'm 57, and very healthy. In many recent years I have been a recipient of the 'thank you' message that my local city office sends out to people who have made no claims on the system over the previous year. This situation will of course not continue indefinitely, and my turn to draw on the funds will of course arrive one day. But I don't have to worry that it will be 'tomorrow', nor that it will be catastrophic.
posted by woodblock100 at 2:32 PM on July 17, 2009

You may have had the most expensive colonoscopy of all.
Nope, that would be the Colonoscopy Not Taken, due to an inability to pay the staggering costs. I am horrified at the thought of anyone having to dish out $1500 for this life-saving procedure, and happily cough up the taxes needed to save the lives of neighbours less fortunate.
posted by fish tick at 8:19 PM on July 17, 2009 [2 favorites]

My physician ordered a colonoscopy for me last week. Because I had had an earlier bad experience with a surprising cost for this procedure (for my son), I decided to check the price before going ahead with it. The nice lady at the doctor's office told me that the cost would be $10,000. Yes, you read that right, one followed by four zeros. It's in line with what I had to pay for my son a couple of years ago.

My insurance would cover only 60% of it. I am not paying $4k for this. An uninsured friend who lives in South Dakota says that the most he'll have to pay is $1800. (I'm in California.)

I have no idea why they're charging such an absurd price, but I'll be investigating.
posted by semblance at 9:02 PM on July 20, 2009

Response by poster: My colonoscopy cost a touch less than $1500. Without the insurance company's pre-negotiated rates, the cost would have been a bit more than $3000.
The procedure was a snap, and I felt good enough to drive home afterwards, but didn't. I took a cab home as the thought of getting into a car accident and then finding the info of my sedation becoming known was a bit scary.
posted by noonknight at 12:56 AM on November 2, 2009

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