Impatient

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How much should a vasectomy cost?

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78819 full

In this great episode of the WNYC podcast Death, Sex and Money, blogger and stay-at-home dad Clint Greagen describes how he made the decision to get a vasectomy.

Greagen tells host Anna Sale that his wife brought up the idea of a vasectomy when she was pregnant with their fourth – and final – son. He agreed to do it, but:

"It was probably about two years after we first brought it up before I actually got into gear and got the job done."

His decision

He explains why he hesitated:

"…the two biggest things I worried about was all the inspections that had to go on with my genitals in front of other people, and the second thing was actually having my genitals pierced by sharp objects."

Another reason, he tells Sale, was the knowledge that he wouldn't be able to father any more kids:

"I was never going to not have the vasectomy. But I did have those moments of sort of, I don't know, loss, I guess. Or regret. A little bit of regret that it was all over."

The cost

There's one deciding factor that Greagen and Sale didn't discuss during this intimate conversation: The price. What should a vasectomy cost? Is it covered by insurance?

That’s where our #PriceCheck collaboration comes in.

I called several urological specialists in the Los Angeles area and asked about the cost of a vasectomy. Turns out, it pays to ask:

Dr. Barton Wachs, of Atlantic Urology Medical Group in Long Beach, told me he charges $500, and he accepts insurance. That covers the consultation and the procedure. He performs the no-scalpel vasectomy.

Meanwhile, Westside Urological Group in Santa Monica charges $1,100 for the no-scalpel procedure – plus $275 for the consultation. Keep in mind: That's the cash price, as the office does not take insurance.

And West Coast Urology charges $1,500 to perform the procedure in its office, and $250 more for the consultation. This office does take insurance.

Speaking of insurance

Vasectomies have traditionally been covered by insurance, says Adam Sonfield, Senior Public Policy Associate at the Guttmacher Institute, a non profit organization that focuses on reproductive health.

But according to Sonfield, they're not included under the Affordable Care Act's contraception mandate, which requires new health insurance plans to cover FDA-approved contraceptives as preventive care for women, without copayment, coinsurance or deductible.

Sonfield believes that's a "poor interpretation" of the law, since vasectomies also impact women's health. This essentially means, he says, that tubal ligations for women should be fully covered, with no out-of-pocket costs, but vasectomies aren't.

The situation, Sonfield says, creates a "weird incentive for couples to go with a tubal ligation instead of a vasectomy," even though vasectomies are cheaper, less invasive, and have less chance of side effects. The law, he says, "perpetuates putting the burden of contraception on women, rather than men."

Your experience

Men, we want to hear from you: How much did you pay for your vasectomy? Grab your Explanation of Benefits (here's how to read it!) and share your billing information with #PriceCheck.

I'm also wondering: How much did cost factor into your decision to get one? You can comment below, or e-mail me at Impatient@scpr.org.

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