Impatient

Helping make the health care system work for you

Next up for #PriceCheck: IUDs (and vasectomies!)

Next up in our #PriceCheck project, we're crowdsourcing the cost of something a little more private: IUDs and vasectomies.
Next up in our #PriceCheck project, we're crowdsourcing the cost of something a little more private: IUDs and vasectomies. +mara/Flickr Creative Commons

Next up in our #PriceCheck project, we're crowdsourcing the cost of something a little more… private: Intrauterine devices, or IUDs.

This small, T-shaped device is inserted into a woman's uterus to prevent pregnancy, and can last there for seven years to more than a decade. (Men, feel free to submit your costs for an even longer-lasting form of birth control: Vasectomies.)

Why IUDs?

Sheri Bonner, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood in Pasadena and the San Gabriel Valley, tells me this form of birth control is becoming more popular.

About 5 percent of her patients get IUDs. That lines up with figures in a recent Guttmacher Institute report, which found that about 5.6 percent of contraception users chose IUDs in 2010.

The IUD got a bad reputation in past decades due to concerns about pelvic inflammatory disease. But, Bonner says, the devices on the market now - the copper ParaGard and the hormonal Mirena – "are light years away from that and extremely safe."

She says the IUD has become a big component of Planned Parenthood's efforts to curb unintended pregnancies. Now, she says, when women come to a clinic for emergency contraception  - a.k.a "the morning-after pill" – Planned Parenthood staff encourage them to get an IUD inserted during that visit.

"We're definitely big proponents of it," Bonner tells me. "We don't like to see women getting pregnant unless that's what they want to do."

How much do they cost?

According to our #PriceCheck database of cash prices, which were collected by our friends at ClearHealthCosts.com, it costs $1,044 to obtain an IUD and have it inserted at Planned Parenthood clinics in the Los Angeles area.

Bonner says the correct cash price is actually $925.

But, she’s quick to tell me: Just 4 percent of Planned Parenthood patients pay cash at all. And those people are paying on a sliding scale, based on their income.

Most patients, she says, have their birth control covered through Medi-Cal or the state’s Family Planning, Access, Care and Treatment program, or Family PACT. For an IUD, Bonner estimates those programs reimburse Planned Parenthood about half the cash price, or less.

(That's similar to what I heard when I was reporting on the cost of mammograms at Valley Breast Care and Women's Health Center in Van Nuys. There, very few patients pay the cash price for a mammogram, because a majority of their patients are covered through Medi-Cal or the state's Every Woman Counts program.)

Your turn

If you're among the women who have an IUD: How much did it cost?

Grab your medical bill or explanation of benefits (here's a handy guide on how to read your EOB!) and head to #PriceCheck. Enter the charged price, what insurance paid, and what you paid. Feel free to add any comments, and be sure to leave your e-mail address, if you're open to talking with me about your experience.

Also tell me: Do you agree with Bonner, who says that the IUD is "a deal, in terms of what the cost outlay is for people and for organizations that are providing it, over the life of the contraceptive?" You can comment below, or e-mail me at Impatient@scpr.org.

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