The ultimate cost of living

Photo by Taylor Gray, Student Publications

It costs $1,331.52 in tests and five vials of my blood for my primary care doctor to tell me that I needed to make an appointment with a gynecologist to receive an actual diagnosis for the issue I need help with.

It costs a minimum of $55 to over $110, with my insurance, just to visit a gynecologist because technically, they are specialists, which my insurance company has deemed an unnecessary visit.

If I manage to make it to the gynecologist, it would then cost anywhere from $300 to over $1000 to get an ultrasound, depending on the complexity of the visit and the type of ultrasound the gynecologist prescribes. These are all rough estimates according to my insurance provider’s portal — I don’t know the exact cost, nor do I know how to navigate the American healthcare system as a young undergraduate student.

What I do know, however, is that healthcare is a privilege in this country, and it is a privilege that my family has struggled to gain access to for most of my life.

I remember when I was in middle school, my mother would yell and cry because she felt a pain near her stomach for months. I remember feeling helpless because she could not go to a doctor without insurance, so she would take some anti-acid medicine and ignore it. I remember feeling helpless because I couldn’t drive her to a hospital myself and force her to see a doctor. I remember her being in so much pain one night that I had to call my friend’s dad to buy Tylenol and drop it off because we ran out, but neither my brother or I was old enough to drive and go to the store ourselves.

When she finally did cave a few months later and pay out of pocket to see a doctor, they told her nothing was wrong and that she probably had bad acid reflux. Nonetheless, they conducted countless useless tests — for cancer, heart disease, and a million other scary potentials — just to give her no diagnosis in the end and expensive bills to pay. This continued until my mother decided that the pain was so much she was going to die, but she didn’t want to die in America; she would rather go to her family in India and die there. So she went, and she got more tests done until the doctors there found out that she had gall stones and cysts in her gallbladder.

One month and a gallbladder removal surgery later, my mother returned home to us in America different than when she had left — pain free and relieved to know that she wasn’t “imagining” like previous doctors had made her believe.

That year was a nightmare for my family, and I thought I would never have to deal with it again, but I find myself in a similar situation now, years later as a young adult. I have suspected that I have Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome for over a year now — I have all of the symptoms of PCOS, and my doctor is mostly sure that I have it and she ordered endless tests to check for it (hence the whopping $1,331.52 bill I received in the mail, which was thankfully covered by the insurance coverage I just gained access to one month ago). The only test left to do to confirm it would be an ultrasound conducted by a gynecologist. But what’s the point of spending so much on getting a diagnosis that would not have a clear course of action anyways? There’s no “cure” to PCOS, and my doctor already prescribed my birth control and other medication to manage the symptoms, so other than making some lifestyle changes, I see no reason to drop a few hundred to a thousand dollars to essentially just label what may or may not be wrong with my ovaries.

I could be completely fine or I could find out years down the line that I am in fact going to struggle having my own children or that I face the multitude of other risks that accompany PCOS. The only thing that I know with complete certainty about my body right now is that I don’t know anything at all.