How Much Does an MRI Cost?
There is nothing worse than getting a hospital bill with an unexpected number on it. So, if your doctor says you need an MRI, you might be wondering, just how much does an MRI cost?
First, MRI stands for Magnetic Resonance Imaging. An MRI machine can scan the inside parts of your body and create pictures for medical professionals to use for diagnostics. Moreover, it is considered “noninvasive” as it uses magnetic fields, radio waves, and computer technology to create images.
MRI’s are commonly used to discover issues in your brain, neck, arteries and spine. (Among many other uses.)
So, let’s look at cost estimates for an MRI with and without insurance, including Medicare options.
How Much Does an MRI Cost Without Insurance?
There is not a national “set price” for an MRI. The U.S.A. has a private healthcare system, so costs vary state-to-state and even facility-to-facility. For this reason, you will see estimates varying on the question of how much does an MRI cost in the United States.
Estimates for How Much does an MRI Scan Cost
- According to Money.com, the average MRI cost is $2,611.
Cost Estimates for MRI as an Inpatient vs an Outpatient
- However, MRI costs also vary significantly between inpatient and outpatient facilities.
- According to this website, the national average for an MRI is $1,325, but the outpatient average is $650, while the inpatient average is $2,250.
- That is over a $1,500 difference in price if you have the procedure done while you are admitted as an inpatient, versus being an outpatient.
The Cost to Get an MRI Scan Varies by State
- As mentioned, the estimated cost of a MRI also varies across the country. The United States uses private hospital systems and they can set their own prices based on their expenses.
- According to American Health Imaging, the most expensive state for an MRI is Alaska (at $3,200).
- And the least expensive state for an MRI is Mississippi (at $97).
What is the Cost on an MRI with Private Insurance?
Private insurance may reduce the cost of your MRI if it is considered a covered service. It may reduce the cost of your service more if you get your procedure done at an in-network facility vs an out-of-network facility.
According to Money.com, insurance companies, on average negotiate MRI costs down to $511 to $2,815. After that, your costs for an MRI will depend on your insurance co-pays, deductibles and max out-of-pocket expenses.
How Much Does an MRI Cost with Medicare?
Depending on what type of Medicare Plan you have, and it your MRI is considered a “covered service,” you may have different costs associated with getting an MRI. Let’s look at each Medicare option and what costs might be associated with each.
Medicare is a national healthcare system that negotiates with facilities to accept Medicare Beneficiaries as patients, and it negotiates prices. You just have Original Medicare and not a Medicare Advantage Plan or a Supplement on top of Medicare, then you can find the price of your MRI scan on the Procedure Price Look-up page on Medicare.gov.
This page lists off 54 different MRI procedures that are covered by Medicare and how much they may cost you and Medicare. For example,
- A simple “MRI Scan” (Code: 76498) is listed at a total cost of $32 (patient pays $6, Medicare pays $25) at ambulatory surgical center or $62 (patient pays $12, Medicare pays $49) at a hospital’s outpatient center.
- While a “MRI of heart before and after contrast with stress imaging” (Code: 75563) can have a total cost of $356 (patient pays $71, Medicare pays $285) at ambulatory surgical center or $691 (patient pays $138, Medicare pays $553) at a hospital’s outpatient center.
However, most people on Medicare do not just have Original Medicare. They also have a Supplement (which is also called a Medigap plan) or a Part C, Medicare Advantage Plan to help them cover the costs that Medicare does not pick up.
Medicare Supplement (Medigap) Plans
If you have a Medicare Supplement plan, then an MRI might not cost you any additional money, depending on your supplement. Plans like F (or G after the Part B deductible) cover all expenses that Medicare does not pick up.
There are different Medigap Plans available listed out by letter names, and Medicare Beneficiaries get to choose which one fits their needs best. To learn more about Medigap plans, click here.
Medicare Advantage Plans (also called MA or Medicare Part C) are bundled plans that replace Original Medicare and offer more coverage than what Original Medicare offers. They often have co-pays or a co-insurance for listed covered services.
For example, a plan might have a set price co-pay for an outpatient service or an inpatient hospital service. If you have an MA Part C, you will need to consult your plan information to see how much an MRI costs with Medicare Advantage.
Why are MRI’s so Expensive?
Here is why MRI Scans are Expensive:
- Research and Development Costs: MRI Machines have life-saving technologies that took years to develop. The development costs alone makes them expensive.
- Little Competition: In addition, there are only 5 companies that make MRI machines.
- More Power = More Money: MRI machines come in different sizes and strengths. Scientists measure their imaging power in “Teslas”. The more Teslas, the more power, the more the machines cost. Each machine can cost from $150,000 to $3,000,000.
- Expensive Housing: Finally, the rooms that hold the MRI machines are also expensive because they must be safety proofed and large.
Ways to keep your MRI costs down:
- Have the MRI done in an outpatient facility. This is the #1 way to keep your costs down as the price difference (on average, up to $1,500) is significant between in and out patient MRI procedures.
- Use insurance and stay in network. Learn what and how your insurance covers an MRI. In addition, if you have a network of medical providers and facilities provided by your insurance, then use them. It is much cheaper to use “in-network” providers because your insurance company has contracted with them and negotiated with them lower prices.
- You might also wonder, how much is an MRI if you pay cash? Is there a discount? Sometimes, yes! If you do not have insurance, pay in cash and negotiate your price upfront when possible. We know some MRI’s are done in emergency settings, but when possible, see if you can negotiate your price.
- Even if you are not paying cash, see if you can negotiate the price down. The insurance companies do the same thing with hospitals. You can also attempt this after the fact, but it is easier to do upfront.
- Call around. Shop your procedure to see where your least expensive options exist. Call all your “in-network” options if you have insurance, or call all your local options if you are uninsured. As mentioned, private healthcare systems set their own costs, so not every facility will be the same.