Blood tests expensive for lyme disease?
August 23, 2009 5:42 PM   Subscribe

Are blood tests for lyme disease particularly expensive without insurance? I'm assuming the antibiotics won't be too bad but I could be wrong. Thanks
posted by mrflibble to Health & Fitness (9 answers total)
We tested our son last year when we wanted to be safe, and it was $700, and not covered by our insurance. I hope it helps the hospital CEO buys a nice sound system for his Jaguar.
posted by crapmatic at 6:36 PM on August 23, 2009

I would suspect that it'd run you between $300-500 (including the doctor's visit to get the order for the test). You should seek the advice of a physician to determine whether or not the test is indicated in your case before laying out that kind of money (in my opinion). There are guidelines that have been published to help physicians decide when to test, or when to wait.
posted by scblackman at 6:37 PM on August 23, 2009

crapmatic: Not that I've ever been a big fan of hospital CEOs (or any CEO for that matter), but did your physician advise you test your child, or was the decision to test (because you "wanted to be safe") your own? The reason that I ask is that if the probability of your son having Lyme disease (or the probability of being able to detect it with the test) was low, and you only had/paid for the test for reassurance, then you really can't fault the hospital CEO.

If your doctor recommended it and you didn't ask, "Hey, doc, is this test really necessary? What is the probability of it really being Lyme?" then you may have lost the opportunity to make your own judgement as to how necessary the test was. If you still live in Oklahoma (as your profile indicates), then per your state's health department, Lyme is very rare, so maybe a test wasn't really indicated based on the low prior probability of anyone in Oklahoma having Lyme disease.

I'm not trying to be rude or to pick on your personally. I certainly don't know all of the details of your son's case - he could've just gotten back from summer camp in Lyme, CT for all I know - and so if I've offended you, then I'm sorry. However, I wanted to take the opprotunity to try make an important point regarding health care reform that's gotten lost in all of the recent noise (none of which is your fault, of course). And that's that we spend way, way, way too much money as a society "trying to be safe" or "trying to be 100% sure" when we could accept >90% or >95% certainty with a lot less spend. In your case, a good history and physical exam, coupled with a basic understanding of the epidemiology of Lyme could've saved you from a test that cost you $700 - money that you probably could've spent elsewhere. And money, that I guarantee you, probably was used to help cover the cost of your hospital's providing care for people without adequate health insurance (see 'cost shifting').
posted by scblackman at 6:49 PM on August 23, 2009

FYI if you feel they/you have lyme, PLEASE get them tested no matter how much it costs. my mom (who is not old by any means) almost died from lyme a few years back because no one bothered to give her a test for it and she had 11 different doctors give her 11 different diagnoses. she recovered, thankfully, but has permanent nerve damage in her arm and has limited use of it for the rest of her life. i don't mean to fearmonger or scare, but have a very intense personal experience with it i felt the need to throw that in there.
posted by assasinatdbeauty at 7:07 PM on August 23, 2009

Response by poster: The possibly pending test is for me. I'm almost positive I was bitten by a deer tick and the vague menagerie of symptoms fit.

I'm also wondering if I can get it all for free by the state / county health clinics.

I'm in Macomb county in Michigan for anyone who might have specific info.

Thanks for the input so far.
posted by mrflibble at 7:08 PM on August 23, 2009

my mom (who is not old by any means) almost died from lyme ... i don't mean to fearmonger or scare, but have a very intense personal experience with it ...

This is exactly what I'm talking about. The choice to administer or purchase an expensive laboratory test should absolutely not be based on anecdotes, no matter how dramatic or scary. It is exactly this type of thinking that is driving our healthcare costs through the roof. Too many doctors subscribed to the "once bitten, twice shy" model of diagnostic evaluation in that they see a super-sick patient with a rare disease, or they miss a diagnosis, and all of a sudden they're testing/treating based on their last experience, and not on the totality of the evidence.

Again, as you can see from the CDC, Lyme is uncommon in Michigan. Ninety (90%) percent of the cases of Lyme occur in 10 states. Michigan is not one of them. Again, talk to you doctor. Your "vague menagerie of symptoms" may indicate something else entirely. Pursuing a single diagnosis just because of the "almost positive" correlation with a tick bite means that you may be prematurely excluding other diagnostic possibilities.
posted by scblackman at 7:24 PM on August 23, 2009

Getting tested for lyme is difficult, and being in an area with low reported numbers means most places wont consider the test for symptoms that may be obvious lyme in other places, because it is deemed "statistically unlikely."

The antibiotic treatment for first phase / initial exposure is cheap, usually 30-60 days of oral antibiotics, Doxycycline or similar, twice a day. You will want to get tested and taking those meds sooner rather than later. In some cases they will start you on the initial antibiotic treatment before the test results come back, because hitting it with antibiotics early has shown to be the best way of preventing chronic or longterm issues. A free clinic may provide you with a diagnosis and a Rx, but you will still probably have to pay for the lab work. But make sure that you go and get tested and talking to a doctor about it ASAP.

From my personal experience, I got diagnosed probably one year after exposure, and was given a normal run of antibiotics, and any symptoms after that were written off as puberty / growing pains / being a teenager. It wasn't until 3 or so years after that initial treatment that I was diagnosed again, and had to take massive amounts of oral antibiotics for months until I was clear of it. My sister had 4 years + before diagnosis, and she was running upwards of $10k a month in *insured* coverage of her intravenous IV treatment.
posted by mrzarquon at 7:31 PM on August 23, 2009

To reiterate: if it is lyme, you want it treated sooner rather than later, but it might not be lyme either. Either way, the best way to determine that is to talk to a doctor as soon as possible.
posted by mrzarquon at 7:38 PM on August 23, 2009


I ended up on almost a month of amoxicillin, before my doctor and I realized that my symptoms were from simple blunt-force trauma. (Yeah, it's a weird story.)

But, the important thing was that they started me on antibiotics ASAP. The meds that are recommended for this are common, and quite cheap in generic. Tell your doctor, and get started now.
posted by Citrus at 12:13 PM on August 24, 2009

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