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MRI Cost Without Insurance

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Person getting CT scan for chest pain; MRI cost without insurance

MRI scans are powerful imaging tests that give clinicians an inside look at bodily tissues and structures to accurately diagnose and treat health conditions. Like any other medical service, MRIs come with a price. Insurance often covers the cost at least partially – but this isn’t always the case, and not everyone has insurance. So, how much does an MRI cost without insurance, and what can you expect from your scan? 

Note: This article is meant simply for educational purposes. It should not act as a substitute for advice from a medical professional. Contact Craft Body Scan to speak with a medical professional or to learn more about body scans.

Key Takeaways

  • The average price of an MRI without insurance in the US is about $2,000. However, in some circumstances, MRI costs without insurance can range from about $400 to upwards of $10,000. 
  • Many factors can affect the cost of an MRI, including the type of MRI scan, your location, the facility, and any other medical needs you have. 
  • Even if you have health insurance, it might only partially cover the cost of your MRI. Insurance coverage may not apply at all if your MRI scan is not considered medically necessary.
  • Craft Body Scan offers a new way to access body scans – including MRIs – without the need for insurance.

What Is an MRI?

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is a non-invasive procedure that uses large magnets, radio waves, and a computer to create detailed anatomical images. Clinicians use MRI scans for disease detection, diagnosis, and monitoring of treatment progress. Unlike other imaging tests, like X-rays, MRIs do not use radiation to collect information.

How does an MRI work?

Most MRI scanners look like long tubes that are closed at one end. Despite its almost alien-looking appearance, an MRI machine is essentially a giant magnet.

Prevention in Raleigh; MRI cost without insurance

The technology inside the machine works by “exciting” protons found in the water inside your bodily tissues. But how? Protons and electrons are like tiny magnets themselves; when exposed to another magnetic field, they reorient themselves to “snap” into place. Imagine, for instance, what happens when you hold a small magnet over a coin.

After the MRI’s magnetic field is applied, a radiofrequency current gets pulsed into the area, stimulating the protons. They spin out of their usual equilibrium and strain against the pull of the new field. Once the magnetic field dissipates, the protons return to their normal alignment, releasing energy in the process. This energy – and radio signals sent back to the machine and computer – helps clinicians understand the difference between tissues and collect clear images. 

Most MRI scans take around 30 minutes at minimum, though some may take as long as an hour.

What Does the Average MRI Cost Without Insurance?

Since MRIs require lots of specialized equipment and training, they’re not exactly cheap, especially if you don’t have health insurance. According to Radiology Assist, a national program that offers health services to underinsured individuals, a person should expect to pay about $2,000 for an MRI without insurance.

However, it’s important to remember that this average is just that – an average. More extensive MRI scans inevitably cost more money, and vice versa. The average cost of an MRI without insurance may range from a few hundred dollars to around $10,000, or perhaps even more.

The type of MRI scan you get, the body area targeted, and the facility you get the procedure done at all impact the price. For instance, an MRI scan at a hospital might cost you upward of $4,000, while the same test at a local imaging clinic could be less than a tenth of the price.

MRI Price Without Insurance by Body Part

Not all MRI scans are made equal, at least not in terms of price. Below is a brief preview of average MRI costs by body part that can help you get an idea of what to expect. Note that these figures are not solely based on estimates without insurance, but they still serve as a good guide.

MRI procedure

Average MRI cost*

General

$400 – $5,700

Lower extremity (foot, ankle, leg, hip)

$975 – $6,300

Upper extremity (shoulder, arm, wrist, hand)

$1,050 – $7,000

Abdominal

$1,600 – $7,600

Brain

$1,600 – $8,400

Cardiac

$430 – $6,500

Chest

$500 – $7,900

Head / Brain

$1,600 – $8,400

Neck

$500 – $11,800

Pelvic

$500 – $7,900

*Source: New Choice Health

MRI Price Without Insurance by City

Where you are can impact how much an MRI costs without insurance, too. Procedures tend to cost more in areas with a higher cost of living and can vary based on where you are in the country. Let’s take a look at the price breakdown for different major cities in the US.

MRI location

Average MRI cost*

New York, NY

$625 – $1,600

Atlanta, GA

$550 – $1,400

Los Angeles, CA

$460 – $1,200

Dallas, TX

$500 – $1,300

Philadelphia, PA

$575 – $1,500

Chicago, IL

$575 – $1,500

*Source: New Choice Health

Additional Factors that Affect MRI Cost

Cancer scan equipment; MRi cost without insurance

Beyond your location and health needs, there are a few other key considerations that affect how much an MRI costs without insurance.

Type of MRI Scan or Machine

The more preparation and work that goes into the MRI, the more it will likely cost. This is part of the reason why different types of MRI scans can come with varying price tags. Make sure you know which kind of MRI your clinician has ordered so that you can correctly assess how much you’ll need to pay.

  • Open MRI: These tests use a machine that’s open on the sides instead of the traditional closed tube we often associate with MRI scans. That means that open MRI scans do not require the patient to be fully surrounded. Since they’re less common and not fit for all procedures, open MRIs may cost more than other options.
  • Closed MRI: This type of MRI uses the tube-like machine you probably have come to expect. These tests are also generally considered the most accurate MRI scans.
  • MRI with Contrast: These MRIs use an injection of what’s known as contrast material, a substance that makes it easier for clinicians to get brighter, clearer images. The most common contrast material is a rare earth metal called gadolinium. Inside the body, gadolinium interacts with water molecules and changes their magnetic properties so that they can produce more specific, sensitive images.

Medication

If a patient needs to be sedated, use contrast material, or receive any other kind of medical support before, during, or after their scan, the overall cost of the MRI tends to go up.

How Much Does an MRI Cost Out of Pocket?

Clearly, MRI costs can fluctuate dramatically. But no matter what kind of MRI scan you get, you’ll probably be expected to pay at least a little bit before or on the day of the procedure. These out-of-pocket costs can apply to people with and without insurance.

With Insurance

Even if you have a health insurance policy, you may still need to meet your deductible before your provider pays any money toward the cost of an MRI. That means you may still end up paying a significant portion of the price if your deductible is high. 

You’ll also be responsible for copays (flat fees) and coinsurance costs, which represent the percentage you have to pay after your insurance provider chips in. One 2023 report on healthcare costs notes that the median cost of an MRI in the US falls around $1,432. So, unless your insurance fully covers the price of the procedure, you might still need to pay a few hundred dollars out of pocket.

Without Insurance

If you don’t have insurance or if your insurance won’t cover your MRI scan (which will likely be the case if your scan isn’t deemed “medically necessary”), you’ll have to pay the whole cost out of pocket. However, your payment may be due in installments instead of all at once, depending on your clinician and their policies. 

This reality can be frustrating for people who, for example, want an MRI to catch conditions, symptoms, or issues while they are still treatable. If your MRI isn’t ordered as part of a current, pressing issue, then you will often be forced to pay out of pocket, which can prevent people from finding hard-to-detect health problems before they become an emergency.

Does Medicare Cover MRIs? What About Medicaid?

Medicare Part B can cover about 80% of the cost of an authorized MRI scan, but you still might have to pay at least a little out of pocket. Medicare Advantage Plans, on the other hand, pay 100% of all covered services, including MRIs. 

Medicaid is a health insurance option run by state governments, which means its policies can vary. However, it’s fairly safe to assume that most Medicaid plans can at least partially cover the cost of an MRI.

While this is good news for Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries, it’s important to note that this coverage comes with conditions. Again, MRIs must be “medically necessary,” which means they must be considered essential for diagnosing or monitoring a health condition. Preventative care does not fall under this umbrella. 

MRI scans must also be ordered by a Medicare doctor and performed at a facility that accepts Medicare, which may further limit an individual’s options.

Is an MRI Without Insurance Worth it? Are There Alternatives?

body scans for athletes

With all that we know now about the cost of an MRI without insurance, one key question remains: is it worth it? If your doctor has informed you that they’d like to order an MRI scan, it’s more than likely for a good reason. It’s understandable to be hesitant about moving forward, though, when you’re not certain about how you’ll pay for the procedure. 

It’s also valid to be frustrated by the limiting circumstances that surround coverage for MRIs. You may not “need” an MRI to address an immediate health concern, but your doctor may still suggest imaging tests to help prevent conditions before they emerge. If you have a family history of heart disease, for example, a doctor might recommend an MRI scan for the sake of early detection and to keep an eye on your cardiovascular system. 

This is all to say that there are many legitimate reasons to want or need an MRI. But if price is a factor holding you back, it may help to understand what other options (beyond traditional healthcare services) are available to you.

MRI vs. CT Scan (Without Insurance)

A computerized tomography (CT) scan is another imaging tool doctors can use to take pictures of bodily structures. CT scans combine X-ray images taken from different angles and use computer processing to produce cross-sectional photos. 

While CT scans can be more affordable than MRIs, they aren’t always a viable alternative. MRIs are usually preferred for examining soft tissues and organs, and CT scans may not always be sensitive enough to give doctors the information they need.

But what about the price? Radiology Assist reports that the average bill for a person without insurance typically falls around $2,000, just like for an MRI without insurance. Of course, some scans can be much cheaper than this, but opting for a CT scan without insurance doesn’t inherently mean you’ll save money.

Where Can I Get an MRI Without Insurance?

You can get an MRI without insurance just about anywhere that performs MRI scans. But remember, some facilities will cost more than others. In most cases, your best bet is to look for an imaging clinic that offers services that fit your budget and needs.

Discover a New Way to Manage Care with Craft Body Scan

Craft Body Scan offers an alternative way to access imaging tests without insurance coverage. Our scans are designed to support preventative healthcare and empower you to take control of your wellness on your schedule.

From full-body CT scans to brain MRIs and whole-body MRI scans, Craft Body Scan provides a robust profile of services that are usually inaccessible without an established medical “need.” 

Our MRI scans and imaging tests aren’t covered by insurance because they don’t require you to have symptoms or a specific cause. You choose the scans you’d like to access at a time that works for you – there’s no need to jump through any additional hoops.

Craft Body Scan also understands that price is a common barrier to accessing the care individuals deserve. That’s why we offer flexible payment options and special promotions on our scans. Pay as little as $100 (or less!) for introductory scans, or choose to break costs into yearly payments; we’re here to work with you to find the right solutions.

Our mission is to make it simple to proactively protect your health by focusing on prevention and early detection. Join us in imagining a new future for healthcare, one that’s dictated by our wants and needs, not a third party. 

Learn more about our body scans and pricing to get started. Contact our team anytime to ask questions and discover how we can help you reach your healthcare goals.

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