Medically reviewed by Katelyn Hagerty, FNP
Written by Our Editorial Team
Last updated 9/17/2021
Whether you’re sexually active or not, you probably learned about Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs) — or as they’re more recently referred to: Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) — during your first Sex Ed class when you were a budding teen.
Back then, probably the furthest thing from your hormone-addled mind was that someday you might have to worry about contracting an STD — and further, whether or not your insurance would cover STD testing.
So, does it? Before getting into the in’s and out’s of health insurance, let’s take a few minutes to refresh your memory on some STD basics before diving into the question at hand: Does health insurance cover STD testing?
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), STDs are comprised of, “More than 30 different bacteria, viruses and parasites,” that are “spread predominantly by sexual contact, including vaginal, anal and oral sex.”
It’s also important to note that STDs can be transmitted through non-sexual means like blood or blood products.
Some are, and some aren’t. The four that are currently curable are chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis and trichomoniasis.
Gonorrhea is a common sexually transmitted disease that can cause infections in the genitals, rectum and throat. In men, it can cause a burning sensation or pain during urination and white, yellow or green discharge from the penis.
Syphilis is an infection that is divided into four phases — primary, secondary, latent and tertiary — with a range of symptoms for each phase including sores, lymph swelling and skin rash. Left untreated, it can affect the heart, brain and other organs.
Trichomoniasis is a common sexually transmitted infection that often goes unnoticed. This is because 70% of cases show no signs or symptoms. However, in some cases, men may experience “itching or irritation inside the penis, burning after urination or ejaculation or discharge from the penis.”
The four STDs that are currently incurable are viral infections such as hepatitis B, herpes simplex virus (HSV), HIV, and human papillomavirus (HPV).
HSV can spread through vaginal, anal or oral sex with someone who has the disease. While most cases don’t present symptoms, signs of herpes include sores on or around the genitals or mouth.
HIV or human immunodeficiency virus weakens the immune system by destroying the body’s ability to fight disease and infection. With proper medical care, HIV can be managed, but left untreated, can lead to death.
HPV can be transmitted through skin-to-skin contact or through vaginal, anal or oral sex with an infected person.
While this list isn’t meant for you to self-diagnose, it could be helpful in deciding whether or not to contact a medical professional to get tested — and as it happens, that brings us back to our original question.
In a perfect world, there would be a simple Yes or No answer to this question, but the truth is the answer is an unsatisfying, “Most of the time.” Nothing’s ever easy, is it?
There are a number of contributing factors that determine whether or not your health insurance will cover an STD test, as well as stipulations related to the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
Some of the ACA’s main objectives are to make healthcare more accessible and affordable, and to cut unnecessary spending.
And since preventing people from getting sick costs way less than treating sick people, primary and preventative care are the name of the game.
As luck (or, more accurately, the ACA) has it, most STD testing falls under these categories.
So let’s break it down:
According to Planned Parenthood, STD screenings for chlamydia, gonorrhea, HIV and syphilis are considered to be preventative in nature and are therefore covered by insurance — most of the time.
This is where it can get a little tricky; depending on factors like your age, gender, and other risk factors, STD testing may not be covered.
Planned Parenthood also explains that ALL insurance plans must cover HIV testing for everyone as long as they are between the ages of 15 and 65 — or younger or older in cases where the person is at a high risk for HIV.
STD tests for chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis are often free with no copay or other out-of-pocket costs. However, there are times when you may have to pay a copay and/or a percentage of the cost, or the full cost.
Luckily there are family planning clinics and health centers like Planned Parenthood
or Urgent Care Clinics that offer free or low-cost options if you either don’t have insurance or your insurance company or health care provider doesn’t cover testing. Prices will vary based on a number of factors like where you go and your income, so it’s best to contact a clinic directly.
Over-the-counter at-home tests are another option, and can be purchased at most pharmacies or even ordered online.
So, does health insurance cover STD testing? Ultimately the best way to find out for sure is to call a healthcare provider and tell them what medical insurance you have.
They can answer questions and go over your insurance coverage with you, as coverage offered by different health insurance providers can vary.
, there’s no excuse not to have one on hand if and when the moment presents itself.
Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis or PrEP, is a preventative medication that, when taken regularly, can protect individuals at risk of HIV exposure. To learn more about PrEP, how it works, and if it might be right for you, you can read up on it here
Get a penis exam. Yes, you read that correctly. While this may seem like an intimidating process, it’s a simple way to get your penis and balls checked out regularly to keep an eye out for signs of things like genital herpes, genital warts, fungal infections, sexual dysfunction and more. Don’t sweat it, either. A penis exam
can be easy and painless.
Celibacy or abstinence. We left these for last because we figured they'd be a last resort — but you can’t argue with the results and peace of mind. Abstaining from sex is the only surefire way to prevent STD transmition through sexual contact.
At the end of the day, whether you choose to see a doctor, go to a clinic or do an at-home test, STD prevention can help keep you and any sexual partners safe from infection — and the good news is there are countless options when it comes to sexual health and preventing sexually transmitted infections.
So if you’re sexually active or plan to be, consider speaking with a healthcare professional about the best preventative care services for you and your lifestyle.
And if you’re uninsured, don’t forget to ask how much an STD test might cost without insurance. A healthcare provider can help you find free or affordable options.
For more tips for a healthy sex life, check out this piece on How to Have a Healthy Sex Life.
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