How Much Does a Cell Free DNA Test Cost?

Written by: Staff

A newer kind of test, known as cell-free fetal DNA testing or a non-invasive prenatal screening, will use a simple blood sample from the expectant mother in order to analyze the bits of fetal DNA that leaked into the bloodstream.  This test, according to LabCorp, can rule out common aneuploidies, such as Down syndrome (trisomy 21), Edwards syndrome (trisomy 18), and Patau syndrome (trisomy 13), and can also be used in conjunction with current prenatal testing.

In most cases, it will detect any defects in the fetal DNA after it has been purified from the blood.

Only being on the market since October of 2011, it is not regulated by the FDA as the FDA, at this time does not regulate this type of genetic testing service.

Several companies, with Sequenom and Illumina being the top names, offer this type of test for soon-to-be moms.

Akiko Yabuuchi, a Ph.D. in George Daley’... by NIH-NCATS, on Flickr
Akiko Yabuuchi, a Ph.D. in George Daley’…” (CC BY 2.0) by NIH-NCATS

How much does a cell-free DNA test cost?

The costs of a cell-free DNA test will greatly depend on your insurance provider, the lab/doctor you use and the geographical location.  From our research, the costs will range anywhere from as little as $0 if you have insurance to as much as $2,200 without insurance.  Those who did have insurance paid an average of $0 to $450, whereas those without insurance coverage, paid anywhere from $850 to $2200 on average.  If you want to know for sure what it will cost you, get the test code via your OB/GYN ahead of time and call your insurance company to see what it will cost.

With Insurance$0 to $450
Without Insurance$850 to $2,200

Insurance may cover this type of test, but it will greatly vary on your circumstances and your insurance carrier.  What we found out is that if you’re older than 35, have a history of chromosomal issues and are considered a CF carrier, then your odds of having it covered would be much greater than someone who doesn’t meet the criteria mentioned.  To know for certain, Google your insurance company name and the words “cell free medical policy” to see what your policy states about this procedure and how much will be covered.

On this TheBump forum thread, for example, multiple members talked about the costs they paid.  One member was billed $2,700 for the process, but her insurance covered it, while another member paid $600 for the consultation and another $600 for the bloodwork results.

Members on talked about what they paid, with many paying anywhere from $0 to as much as $2,200, some of which was covered by their insurance carrier.

The National Institutes of Health notes the coverage of CF-DNA varies, with self-pay costing about $500.

Cell-Free fetal DNA — how it works

During a pregnancy, five to 15 percent of noncellular, known as the “cell-free” DNA fragments, are located in the maternal blood.  This genetic material is released via the placenta and will circulate in the woman’s blood during pregnancy.  Researchers can identify these fragments in the plasma and can then perform next-generation sequencing, allowing them to map millions of these fragments onto the human genome.  This, in turn, according to can identify which chromosomes, including chromosomes 13, 18, and 21, come from.  For instance, if a fetus did have an extra chromosome, then researchers will see an increase in the ratio of fragments, albeit small.  The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists break down the test with this infographic.

During the test, blood will be drawn via the mother’s arm and no special preparation will be needed.  The results will then be sent off to a lab to be analyzed, and depending on the laboratory being used, it could take up to two weeks for the test results to come in.

The extra costs to consider

If the results of this noninvasive test are positive, then an invasive test, such as amniocentesis or chorionic villus sampling (CVS), will be required to confirm the results.  This is because the noninvasive test is considered to be indirect and will have certain limitations.  Amniocentesis, with so many factors, can range from $1,500 to $4,000, while a chorionic villus sampling can cost $1,000 to $2,000 without a health insurance policy.

Sometimes, a test will not yield a result or is indetermination.  In this type of case, further genetic counseling, an ultrasound and/or additional diagnostic testing may be required, all of which will be additional tests to budget for.

Tips to know

This test will often be recommended after the 10th week of pregnancy.

In most cases, you can negotiate the costs, even if your insurance company covers a portion of it.  Talk with your doctor’s office to see if there is a prearranged price you can pay straight out of pocket.  In some scenarios, this option may be cheaper than using your insurance.

Although this test can offer a lot of information, it will not be as precise as amniocentesis or a chorionic villus sampling as these tests grow the fetal cells, which can create a full DNA sequence of the baby, not fragments as the cell-free DNA test does.

Cell-free DNA screening can detect more than 99 percent of Down syndrome pregnancies and 97 percent of trisomy 18 pregnancies. It detects about 87 percent of trisomy 13 pregnancies as per UCSF Health.

The risks pose no harm to the mother or baby, and while it may cause anxiety, it can help a soon-to-be mom avoid invasive tests in the future.

Some labs will reveal the gender if you give them permission as the test can determine if it’s a boy or girl.

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