Ordering lab tests

Are Lab Tests Ordered Online Cheaper?

Did you know you could order most blood lab tests online? Until recently, neither did I. But you can, and you don’t even need a prescription from your physician.

You know how when you get that bill from that recent visit to the doctor and there are all these different amounts on there? The “billed” amount and the “negotiated” amount? That’s basically your health insurance company doing some work to lower the bill. You see, for some reason, medical bills in this country start off grossly inflated.

First, the healthcare provider sends out a huge bill. This is followed by the insurance company saying “Eff this, we’ll only pay $X”. It makes no sense really, but that’s the way it is.

But what if you don’t have insurance? Would you have to pay those grossly inflated bills all out of pocket?

Or what if you want to circumvent your insurance company or even circumvent your doctor? Do you have to negotiate the final price yourself?

 

Ordering Lab Tests Online

So what would any normal person do? That’s right, fire up Google and see what you can do about it.

Before too long, you’ll notice websites popping up left and right offering online lab testing. No, they won’t sell you a USB-needle hookupTM so you can take your own blood, but they do let you order blood tests right on their website. Is this legit? And is it cheaper than the regular cash price? Can I avoid my doctor altogether?

YES.

You simply select what tests you need and pick a location where you’d like to get your blood drawn (usually it’s at a Quest Diagnostics or LabCorp facility), pay with the rewards credit card of your choice (and maybe even use a coupon) and that’s it. Then, you go to your scheduled appointment and within a few days, you have the results waiting for you in your inbox.

 

Not So Fast! Some States Don’t Allow Online Blood Testing

It seems like most states are perfectly fine with you ordering blood tests online. But, apparently not all states like the whole “circumvent your doctor” thing. These states are:

  • New York
  • New Jersey
  • Rhode Island
  • Massachusetts (but tests carried out by Quest Diagnostics are allowed here)
  • Maryland (but tests carried out by Quest Diagnostics are allowed here)

If you live in any of these states: tough luck! We are in Florida, so no problem here 🙂

 

Lab Test Price Comparison

In the context of infertility, Mrs. Frugalcrib had to undergo many stabbings of the veins in her arm. For these tests, we know both the “billed” amount and the “health insurance company negotiated” rates, since, well… we had to pay for them (High Deductible Health Plan FTW)!

So let’s compare the CASH price, several online lab test websites, and our insurance negotiated rates.

Comparison online blood lab test websites

Prices are as of February 2018

 

If you would get all the lab tests mentioned above (as Mrs. Frugalcrib did), you probably would not be a happy camper if you were a cash buyer. These nine lab tests, which are very routine I might add, would cost you $1,369. Going through an online lab-ordering store would save you between 56% and 69% depending on which website you used. Out of the three websites we looked at, Directlabs.com was the most expensive, followed by Requestatest.com. Walkinlab.com was the cheapest at $427.

The winner, by a mile, was going through our own insurance company. Seems like the megacorp insurance companies have the best negotiation skills after all. You’d save a whopping 92% going through health insurance (at least, that’s what happened in our case).

The only difference is: you need a prescription from your doctor! (But of course, you probably need a doctor to interpret the results anyway).

 

Our Experience

We’ve used both Walkinlab and Requestatest on two different occasions. Both were just regular checkup kinda things that we wanted to keep tabs on but didn’t want to bother with scheduling an appointment with the doctor.

The process was very easy. Pick the test, pay for it, show up at the lab and wait for the results. The results were available online within 24 hours and included the normal/abnormal ranges so that you can do some rudimentary interpretations yourself.

While going through the insurance company is still by far the cheapest way to go, I like that you have the option to go at it yourself. Maybe your doctor doesn’t want to bother with a certain test, or maybe you don’t have insurance and want a yearly health checkup anyway.

One thing’s for sure though: ordering your own tests beats paying the non-negotiated cash price.

2 Comments

  • Nick

    February 19, 2018 at 1:31 pm

    Hello,

    ordering from 2 stores (same Quest lab) will decrease a price a lot: [link removed]
    ordering from 4 different stores (you will still come to the same lab, just more time to register): [link removed]

    WalkInLab sells LabCorp tests too.. Not sure which lab prices is listed here. However, this may influence on price also.

    Reply
    • Mrs Frugalcrib

      February 19, 2018 at 3:40 pm

      Well except for AMH, the range between the three sites isn’t that big. If you were to do that, you would save a total of $7 by switching Free T4 from Walkinlab to Requestatest (the only test where Walkinlab is more expensive than the rest). Depending on the price difference it may or may not be worth the hassle.

      Reply

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