How Much Does a Pap Smear Cost?

Gynecological examination
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The Pap smear is the most effective tool for screening for cervical cancer, so avoiding it because of the cost is not a good idea. With that, how much does a Pap smear cost?

The Affordable Care Act, passed in 2010, should make this question less common for women in the United States. This is because Pap smears are covered by most insurance plans with no out-of-pocket cost. 

If you have been able to get insurance, check with your plan to see if it is covered and whether there is any copay.

If you do not have insurance, there are a few options you can explore. 

Pap Smear Cost Without Insurance in the United States

The cost of a Pap smear varies among doctor's offices. The cost can range from $50 through $200. Some offices have a discounted price for uninsured women, while others have a standard rate.

If you do not have insurance, your best bet would be to call around to several physicians in your area to compare costs. When you do call doctor's offices, make sure the fee quoted includes the office visit fee, the fee for the Pap smear, and the lab fee. Some offices do not charge a lab fee, rather allowing the lab to bill you later.

It's also important to note that if you are between the ages of 30 and 64, your doctor will likely order a human papillomavirus (HPV) test with your Pap smear. This test is ordered every three to five years and checks to see if the cervical cells from your Pap smear contain any strains of HPV that are linked to cervical cancer (called high-risk strains).

This would be an additional cost. 

Also, if during your Pap smear, your doctor notes signs of a vaginal infection, or if you are between the ages of 21 and 25, your doctor may order tests for sexually transmitted infections—another cost. 

All in all, you want to know all the associated costs upfront, so there will be no unexpected charges later.

A final tidbit worth mentioning is to always be open and honest with your doctor. By telling her you are paying out of pocket, she may take an extra second to ensure the tests she is ordering are essential (something doctors should do anyway, but it does happen). 

Finding a Free or Low-Cost Pap Smear

If you do not have insurance, don't fret, as there are other options available for you.

For instance, if your yearly income is at or below 250 percent of the federal poverty level, you may qualify for a free or low-cost screening through the CDC’s National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program (NBCCEDP). The CDC has an easy-to-use, interactive map showing programs by state, as well as specific services for Native Americans.

The federal poverty level varies yearly, and there are specific levels for Alaska and Hawaii. Use this chart to see what the 250 percent level is for your household size and the state where you reside:

Pap smears may also be covered by Medicare and Medicaid, so again, be sure to check with your plan for coverage.

Another alternative to going to a private practice physician would be to go to your local Planned Parenthood or county health department.

Both offer free or low-cost Pap smears to low income and/or uninsured women.

Please note that most county health departments treat low-income people, so you may not qualify for their services. However, you should definitely check with Planned Parenthood if your income level exceeds the allowable amount at your county health department.

A Word From Verywell

Once you have made your Pap smear appointment, ask your doctor how to best prepare for it. To obtain an optimal sample, most doctors prefer that a woman not place anything in her vagina for two days prior to the test. It's also best to not make your appointment during your period.

Also, after your Pap smear, ask your doctor how your results will be provided to you (for example, a phone call or a letter). If you do not hear about your results within three weeks, call your doctor's office. Don't let your health fall through and assume that everything is OK.

Lastly, understanding your Pap smear test results can be a bit of a challenge. Talk with your doctor if you have concerns or questions and follow up with the care your doctor recommends.

Sources:

Bettigole C. The thousand-dollar pap smear. N Engl J Med 2013;369:1486-87.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2016). Gynecologic Cancers: What Should I Know About Screening?

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