December 30, 2016 in Smart Money

How much does a colonoscopy cost?

Doctors recommend a colonoscopy procedure when they need to visualize the inner lining of a patient’s large intestine.

The test uses a colonoscope — which is a flexible tube — to find signs of inflammation, ulcers, polyps or tumors. Doctors also can remove abnormal growths, take samples of the tissue to biopsy and check for other signs of disease.

Before patients undergo a colonoscopy procedure, doctors provide all the necessary information about preparing for the test.

Although learning about what to expect during a colonoscopy procedure is a common part of the conversation between doctors and patients, patients rarely hear much about what to expect to pay for a colonoscopy before the procedure.

So, how much does a colonoscopy cost? Read on to learn more about the costs and factors that affect it.

Colonoscopy cost factors

Many different factors affect the final cost of a colonoscopy. Examples include:

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Average cost of colonoscopy procedures

The typical costs of colonoscopy procedures vary widely, depending on a variety of factors. The cost for patients also depends on whether they have health insurance. Here’s a rundown:

Common charges during a colonoscopy procedure

The physician’s charge is only part of the total amount you may pay for a colonoscopy procedure. Additional charges associated with the cost of a colonoscopy include:

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Colonoscopy cost and insurance coverage

How much does a colonoscopy cost for patients without insurance? They typically pay 100 percent of the charges for this test.

The amount patients with insurance pay depends on the contract between the patient’s insurance carrier and medical provider. Choosing in-network providers typically offers the lowest patient cost, while choosing out-of-network providers frequently results in higher patient deductibles and out-of-pocket expenses.

Virtual colonoscopy cost

Virtual colonoscopies use computed tomography (CT) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to create a three-dimensional image of the large intestine. Experts are continuing to study this less-invasive method to determine whether the results are as accurate at traditional tests.

Virtual colonoscopy procedures typically carry a lower cost than traditional colonoscopy procedures. For example, in 2015, Medicare estimates revealed an average cost of $1,036 for traditional colonoscopy procedures. That same year, the cost of a virtual colonoscopy averaged $439. Medicare estimates that virtual colonoscopy procedures cost 29 percent less than traditional procedures.

Additional colonoscopy cost considerations

Some hospitals, organizations and government programs offer low-cost and free colonoscopy screenings for uninsured or underinsured patients.

Depending on the patient’s condition, doctors may recommend a flexible sigmoidoscopy instead of a colonoscopy. This procedure can be performed in the physician’s office, typically within 20 to 30 minutes. It doesn’t require sedation and usually costs around $200.

Doctors can only view half the large intestine, so it may not be a good option for everyone.

Conclusion

Choose a board-certified gastroenterologist to perform the procedure. Whenever possible, minimize the cost by choosing a provider who participates with your insurance plan and work closely with your doctor to determine how frequently you need to have the procedure to better anticipate costs.

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