How Much Does an MRI Cost?

By HealthPriceCompare - Feb 9, 2023

The cost of an MRI generally depends on the specific type of exam and the area being imaged. Limb and abdomen images tend to cost less than images of the spinal cord and brain. A part that's relatively straightforward like a knee joint generally has a lower price tag with some cash-based providers pricing it as low as $600. In contrast, a spinal MRI may cost up to $5,000, depending on the imaging center you use. The cost also varies depending on the facility, your insurance status and whether you decide to pay cash.

Why MRIs Cost So Much

When most people hear about how much an MRI costs, they immediately wonder why. The answer is simple - the equipment needed to perform an MRI is extremely expensive to purchase and maintain with these remarkable machines costing well over a million dollars.

Costs Involved in an MRI

In addition the cost of the MRI machine, other expenses are involved. This can include the cost of the ink, the cost of specialists to administer the procedure and read the image, plus administrative expenses.

Location Affects MRI Cost

Like hospitals, stand-alone imaging centers must buy MRI equipment and then pay to keep it maintained and updated. But because these specialty clinics focus on imaging, they typically do more MRIs than hospitals which allows the equipment, maintenance and administrative costs to be spread over more patients, ultimately lowering the cost for each patient. Hospitals don't have the flexibility to do that.

These cost savings are pushed on patients. As a result, it's almost always less expensive to get an MRI at a stand-alone imaging center.

Insurance Type Also Affects MRI Price

You may be in a generous employer group health plan or on Medicare or Medicaid. These types of insurance cover most medical expenses with participants paying little to no cost-sharing when obtaining MRIs and other imaging services. For patients who are uninsured or in high-deductible health plans, their patient responsibility is typically the entire cost of the procedure.

The contracts that insurance companies establish with hospitals can vary dramatically depending on the procedure. For example, a Blue Cross Blue Shield member seeking a brain MRI in the Dallas area would have to pay $2,724 at Baylor University Medical Center. Or they could pay $527 cash for the same procedure at North Central Surgical Center.

How to Make the Right Provider Decision

Patients are becoming aware of the reasons why they should shop for healthcare and that they have more choices than just going where their doctor tells them to go. You can call around and get quotes from a few different places or you can use HealthPriceCompare to do it the easy way.

HealthPriceCompare presents both insurance contracted and discounted cash prices for MRIs using just three pieces of data - zip code, MRI type and insurance plan. Be sure to also compare discounted cash prices - you may be surprised by how much you can save.