How Much Does a Doctor Visit Cost With and Without Insurance?

by Nick Versaw Updated December 7th, 2021

patient at a routine doctor visitGoing to the doctor is never fun. But it can be even more stressful when you’re worried about your health and how you’ll pay for the visit at the same time.

Without insurance, medical care can get pricy fast. Where you live, what doctor you’re going to, and what tests you need will all figure into your doctor’s visit bill. In this article, we’ll break down those costs and give you some tips for saving money.

What Goes into the Cost of a Doctor’s Visit?

Geography is one of the biggest factors in the price of a doctor’s visit. Most medical facilities pass some of their overhead expenses onto their patients. If you live somewhere with a higher cost of living, like California or New York City, you’ll likely pay more for doctors’ visits. The practice has to pay more for utilities and rent, and those costs show up in your bill. For example, Mayo Clinic’s Patient Estimates tool quotes $846 for a 60-minute office visit in Jacksonville, Florida, but $605 for the same visit in Wisconsin.

Like the cost of living, supplies and equipment will also end up on your tab. Say you need a strep test, blood draw, or Pap smear. The supplies needed for the test plus the cost of the lab fees will all figure into the price.

Bills for the same exams and procedures can also vary depending on what kind of facility you’re going to. Smaller practices and public health centers are often a lot cheaper than university or private hospital systems. This is due in part to their buildings being smaller and their overhead fees being lower.

Price of Out-of-Pocket Doctors’ Visits

The cost of a doctor’s office visit also depends on what kind of doctor and the procedure you need to have done. For example, an in-office general wellness checkup will be cheaper than a specialist procedure. If you have an emergency, an urgent care center will be much more affordable than the emergency room.

Primary Care Physician — Physical Exam

Physicals usually include blood pressure readings, cholesterol measurements, and vaccines. Prostate exams for men and Pap smears and breast exams for women are also often included. Pediatric physicals focus on the growth milestones for your child’s age. Doctors check height, weight, sleep patterns, diet, and the vaccines required by public schools.

The range for a yearly physical can be anywhere from $100 to $250 or more without insurance. A CVS Minutecare Clinic may charge just $59 for a sports physical, but not all organizations will accept this as proof of physical health.

Primary Care Physician — Procedures

On top of the base cost for physical exams, you may have extra charges for any specific tests or procedures you need. According to the Cardiometabolic Health blog, the most common procedures in primary care medicine include bloodwork, electrocardiograms, and vaccines/injections.

Bloodwork is one of the biggest cost wild cards. Certain tests can run you from as little as $10 to as much as $10,000. Large national labs like Labcorp offer pricing on their website, so you know what to expect going in. For example, Labcorp’s General Health Blood Test, which includes a metabolic panel, complete blood count (CBC), and urinalysis, costs $78.

Electrocardiograms or EKGs check your heart health and can find cardiac issues. This quick procedure involves monitoring your heartbeat through electrodes placed on your skin. While it’s a painless and accurate way to detect heart conditions, the costs can add up without insurance. Expect to pay as little as $410 or as much as $1700 for this procedure, depending on local prices.

Vaccines are often required before sending your kids to school. The CDC publishes a vaccination price list annually to give you an idea of what to expect. For example, they quote $19-$132 for DTaP, $21 for Hepatitis A, and $13-$65 for Hepatitis B. The COVID-19 vaccine, however, is free of cost, regardless of insurance status.

Urgent Care Visit

If you have an emergency but are stable, urgent care is much cheaper than the emergency room. According to Scripps, most urgent care centers and walk-in clinics can at least treat dehydration, cuts or simple fractures, fever, flu, strep, and UTIs. Note that if you have chest pain, a serious injury, seizures, a stroke, or pregnancy complications, you should go straight to the ER.

For a base exam at an urgent care facility, expect to pay between $100-$150. That price will go up depending on what else you need. For example, Advanced Urgent Care in Denver quotes $80 for an X-Ray, $50 for an EKG, $135 for stitches, and $5 for a urinalysis. In comparison, expect to pay $1,000-$1,300 for the same procedures in the emergency room.

How to Lower Your Out-of-Pocket Medical Costs

Doctor calculating how much a visit costs

Healthcare expenses may seem overwhelming without insurance. Luckily, there are many resources available to help you cover the costs.

Free & Low-Cost Immunization and Wellness Clinics

For standard vaccines and checkups, look for local free or low-cost clinics. Check out The National Association of Free and Charitable Clinics’ search tool to find a location near you. Your city’s public health department should also offer free or low-cost vaccines and basic medical care services.

Certain large vaccine manufacturers also offer vaccine programs. For example, Merck’s patient assistance program offers 37 vaccines and medicines free to eligible patients. The program includes albuterol inhalers and vaccines for Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, MMR, and HPV.

Cash Negotiations

Most health systems offer lower rates for patients paying cash. Some even have free programs for low-income families. For example, Heritage UPC in North Carolina has a yearly membership for low-cost preventative care. In Northern California, the Sutter Health medical system offers full coverage for patients earning 400% or less of the Federal Poverty Income Guideline.

As of January 1, 2021, all hospitals in the United States now have to follow the Hospital Price Transparency Rule. That means they have to list procedure prices clearly on their website. You can also call medical billing before your appointment to discuss cash pay options.

Federal Medical Payment Support

If all else fails, there are federal programs to help you cover the cost of medical bills.

Organizations like The United Way and United for Alice offer grants for ALICE (asset-limited, income-constrained, employed) patients. These are people living above the poverty level, making them ineligible for other government programs but below the basic cost-of-living threshold.

Medicaid is available for children, pregnant women, and adults under a certain income threshold. If your income is too high to qualify for Medicaid but you can’t afford private insurance for your children, you may be eligible for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) to cover your children’s medical care.

Use Compare.com for the Best Doctors’ Visit Prices

Navigating bills for a doctor’s visit can feel overwhelming, but Compare.com is here to help. With our price comparison tool, you can search all clinic and doctors’ office prices in your area. Compare makes sure you’re prepared for the cost of your checkup long before you schedule your appointment.

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