Compared to CT scans and X-rays, an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scan is the best non-invasive way for your doctor to examine your body. MRI scans have zero radiation side effects and produce more detailed images, resulting in over 40 million annual MRI procedures in the US alone.
However, like other medical expenses such as surgery and other treatments, MRI costs have become a financial burden for many Americans and their families. More and more people are asking, ‘how much does an MRI cost without insurance?’
In this article, we’ll provide you with answers to
- How much an MRI costs
- MRI costs depending on the procedure
- Factors that influence the cost of MRIs
- Do insurance providers cover the full cost of MRI scans?
How Much Does An MRI Cost?
Generally, an MRI scan costs anywhere between a couple hundred to several thousand dollars and up to around $12,000. The cost depends on where you get your MRI done, your health insurance coverage, and the procedure or body part being scanned.
Luckily, if you’re insured, your out-of-pocket cost of MRI with insurance will be much lower. That’s because your insurance provider will at least cover a portion of your MRI costs. The total amount you’ll pay out of pocket depends on your deductible, coinsurance, and copay.
If you’re not insured, or your health insurance doesn’t cover the cost of an MRI, you’ll have to pay the full cost of the procedure yourself. Therefore, your total costs largely depend on the type of MRI procedure you need and the location of the imaging center. So, if you’re uninsured, shop around for different imaging facilities and discuss their pricing options before committing so that you can try to lower the amount you’ll need to pay for an MRI without insurance.
Fortunately, there are also insurance options for low to no-income individuals. Having health insurance is the best way to save yourself from hefty MRI costs.
Below is data on the average cost of an MRI in the United States.
- National Average: $1,325
- Inpatient Facility Average: $2,250
- Outpatient Facility Average: $650
- National Range: $375 – $3,000+
MRI Costs For Specific Procedures
The cost of MRIs varies depending on several factors. One of these factors is the type of MRI procedure recommended by your general practitioner (GP)
Below are the MRI costs influenced by the type of MRI procedure.
- Brain MRI Cost: up to $8,400
- Cardiac MRI Cost :up to $6,500
- Abdominal MRI Cost :up to $7,600
- Neck MRI Cost :up to $11,800
- Pelvic MRI Cost :up to $7,900
- Breast MRI Cost :up to$10,300
- Head MRI Cost :up to $6,100
- Chest MRI Cost :up to $7,900
- Upper Extremity MRI Cost :up to $7,000
- Magnetic Resonance Imaging (General MRI) Cost :up to $5,700
- Bone MRI Cost :up to $2,100
- MRI Cervical Spine :up to $7,600
- Lower Extremity MRI Cost :up to $6,300
** Prices of the above with insurance: it is free or much lower than stated above.
You should note that the above prices are estimates. They don’t include the fees for your radiologist (a medical specialist specializing in reading and interpreting medical images like an MRI, ultrasound, X-ray, and CT scan).
Factors That Influence The Cost Of An MRI
When people ask how much an MRI costs with insurance or without insurance, they rarely consider the factors that influence the cost of an MRI. These elements determine how much you’ll pay out-of-pocket for your MRI tests.
Below are the details you need to consider when comparing the prices of MRI scans in different imaging centers.
The location of the hospital or imaging center you visit for your MRI scan greatly influences your total costs. For example, if you live in a city with many MRI service providers, prices will likely be lower due to increased competition. While in rural areas with few imaging centers, you’ll have fewer options to choose from and higher prices to pay.
Type Of Facility
MRI services from hospitals imaging centers are usually overpriced, and you generally don’t know about these inflated costs until you receive your bill. That’s because, for most hospitals, their key motivator is increasing their profit margins.
However, at IDTF (Independent Diagnostic Testing Facilities) Imaging centers, prices are low and affordable because they specialize in imaging services, are cheaper to operate, and have a larger pool of clients.
Additionally, without significant bargaining power with insurance companies, IDTF imaging centers have to charge a price that patients without insurance can pay.
It costs extra to have a radiologist read and interpret your MRI scan results. Extra charges for radiologist readings are common in hospitals. However, in IDTF imaging centers, radiologist reading is typically accounted for in their cost structure.
Your insurance coverage greatly influences how much you’ll pay for your MRI scans out-of-pocket. Depending on your insurance plan, your insurance provider may cover the full cost of your scans or only pay a fraction of the total cost.
Note: Since MRI scans are diagnostic tests, your insurance company will help you cover the costs if the tests are medically needed. Therefore, ensure you have your physician’s approval before requesting an MRI scan.
Type Of MRI Machine
There are different types of MRI machines, each with different features and capabilities, which affect the costs of your MRI scan. For example, images from high-field MRI machines with a magnetic strength of 3T are much sharper than low-field MRI machines with a magnetic strength of 1.5T, thus increasing the prices of high-field MRI scans.
Bonus Point: Spine and Brain MRI scans need an image from an MRI machine of at least 1.5T. However, if you need a scan for a different part of your body, opt for low-field MRI scans to keep your MRI costs low. Many doctors still accept these.
Preparation for your MRI scan may vary depending on the MRI procedure you’re undergoing. For example, some procedures require using contrast agents (substances used to enhance the differences between blood vessels, body tissues, and organs during medical imaging). You can expect the use of contrast agents to increase your overall costs.
If you’re claustrophobic (fear of confined spaces), the last place you’d want to be is in an MRI machine. However, since your health and medical diagnosis depend on the results of your MRI tests, you have to enter this small space. To reduce your anxiety levels during the test, your physician may prescribe sedatives to calm you down. Additional medication costs will increase your overall MRI costs.
Body Part Scanned
Your body parts (type of procedure) significantly influence your MRI procedure’s total costs. That’s because some body parts require more detailed analysis than others. For example, a brain MRI scan costs more than a knee MRI scan due to the complexity of the tests.
Out-Of-Network vs. In-Network Providers
If you’re insured, your in-network provider (imaging service providers with a contract with your health insurance provider) will charge you the contracted price they agreed with your insurance company.
Typically, your in-network provider’s charges are usually discounted. Therefore, they’ll likely be lower than the out-of-network or out-of-pocket MRI cost without insurance.
Would Health Insurance Cover The Full Costs Of An MRI?
Yes, your health insurance plan can cover the full costs of your MRI scan. Some health insurance providers will cover your MRI scans at no charge, depending on your premium.
However, most health insurance covers a portion of the costs associated with your MRI scan. The specific amount they cover depends on the terms of the insurance coverage you bought. This means there’ll be some fees you’ll need to pay out-of-pocket.
Additionally, the extent of your coverage may depend on your reason for getting an MRI scan, the type of MRI procedure, and the imaging center conducting your tests.
However, even having a portion of the costs paid by insurance is better than paying the full costs of an MRI out-of-pocket if you don’t have insurance. And luckily, Obamacare (the Affordable Care Act), made health insurance more accessible and available to everyone including low to no-income individuals.
Like other medical costs, MRI fees are running high, causing a financial headache to many Americans. Even those with insurance coverage have to pay for out-of-pocket costs like coinsurance, copay, and deductibles.
So, our advice, get an affordable insurance policy that meets your healthcare needs. However, with thousands of insurance providers begging to serve you, picking the right provider isn’t easy. That’s why you need the help of insurance experts who can help you figure out your healthcare needs and the best insurance providers to match you up with.
Here atEnhance Health, we do exactly that. Even if you’ve got low or no income, we can help you understand your options and get you the coverage you need.