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The Average Cost of MRIs With and Without Insurance

Average Cost of MRIs: Insured & Out of Pocket
Susan Guillory
Susan GuilloryUpdated September 5, 2023
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You may need an MRI because you’ve had an injury or aren’t feeling well in a part of your body. While you’re eager to start the healing process, you’re a little concerned about what this procedure is going to cost you.Keep reading to learn the average cost of MRIs, including with and without insurance, and the different methods of payment to consider.

What Is an MRI?

Magnetic resonance imaging, more commonly known as an MRI, is often prescribed by a doctor when the cause or state of an illness or injury isn’t visible externally. The MRI provides imaging of your skeletal system, organs, and tissues using magnetic fields and radio waves.To take an MRI, the patient is slid into a tube-shaped machine. Radiologists can pinpoint a certain part of the body to get a close look at it.MRIs are commonly ordered for issues dealing with the brain and spinal cord, the heart and blood vessels, internal organs, breasts, and bones and joints.

What's Covered in the Cost of an MRI

MRIs are not cheap, and that’s because there are many expenses that the cost of an MRI scan has to cover. The cost covers the investment in the equipment, the medical staff, and overhead for the imaging facility.Sometimes, you may also have to pay a separate professional fee to have the radiologist read and interpret the results from your MRI images, especially if a second opinion is needed.

Average Cost of an MRI With Insurance

If you have health insurance, your out-of-pocket expense for the MRI should be significantly lower — or none at all — compared to what you would pay without insurance.The national average cost for an MRI is just over $1,300. If you have insurance, you may pay as little as $375 to $1,000 out-of-pocket, depending on your policy and coverage. Understand that these are just averages. Some MRIs can cost $10,000 or more. To find out how much you will be responsible for when it comes to the cost of an MRI, review your health insurance policy or speak to a representative with details on the type of MRI you have been ordered to get, as well as where you plan to have the service performed. The imaging facility may also be able to connect with your insurance company to see what your out-of-pocket costs would be.Recommended: Affording Gender Affirmation Surgery

Factors That Can Influence the Cost of an MRI

There are many factors that go into the average cost of MRI services, including the type of health insurance policy you have, your deductible amount, and your copay.In addition, the body part you’re having images for, whether you have the MRI at the hospital or a free-standing imaging center, as well as the type of equipment used, will also factor into the cost.

Average Cost of an MRI Without Insurance

If you don’t have health insurance, you would be responsible for the full cost of the MRI, which could be about $5,000. However, if you tell the imaging facility that you are a self-pay patient, you may be able to negotiate a lower rate since many medical facilities charge individuals without insurance less than they charge insurance companies.Here are a few sample prices for a chest x-ray in different cities across the U.S. for self-pay patients:
  • San Diego, California: $904
  • Atlanta, Georgia: $1,053
  • Little Rock, Arkansas: $1,158
  • Madison, Wisconsin: $943
Keep in mind that different imaging facilities will charge different prices, so it may save you a significant amount of money if you shop around. Some facilities may be willing to negotiate a price you can afford, so don’t be shy about asking for a discount.Whether you pay for your MRI out-of-pocket or take out a small personal loan, this is something you don’t want to have to stress about, so let’s look at your payment options.Recommended: Pros and Cons of a Personal Loan

How to Cover the Cost of an MRI: Strategies for Paying

Many Americans don’t have enough cash in their bank account to cover substantial medical bills, so if that applies to you, know that you’re not alone and you do have options when it comes to covering your MRI bill.Payment options for an MRI include paying from your savings account, taking out a medical or surgery loan, using a health savings account, and more.

Health Savings Account (HSA)

If you have a high-deductible health insurance policy, you may be eligible for a health savings account (HSA). Unlike with a traditional savings account, the money you contribute to this account to pay medical expenses is tax-deductible. You can set aside money each month and use the funds in your HSA to cover medical expenses, including an MRI. Come tax time, you’ll claim the contributions you made to reduce your taxable income.

Payment Plans

Many MRI facilities offer payment plans, which means you will make payments toward your balance each month until it is paid in full. Keep in mind that you may pay interest with a payment plan, so make sure you understand the full cost of this option.

Medicaid or Medicare

Similar to private or employer-sponsored health insurance, if you have Medicaid or Medicare, you may not be responsible for the full cost of an MRI, though you may need to pay a small amount as a copay. Review your policy to see what your responsibility would be.

Government Programs and Financial Assistance

Another option to help with the average cost of MRI imaging if you have a low income is a government program or financial assistance program. The organization Radiology Assist, for example, offers the Get Healthy Grant to help with imaging costs, and many imaging facilities offer financial aid to patients who meet certain income criteria.Additionally, some organizations, such as the Multiple Sclerosis Association of America, offer aid for MRIs for people with certain conditions or illnesses.

State-Specific Healthcare Programs

Your state may also offer financial assistance for MRI costs, so see what the criteria are to qualify.

Medical Loans

If you don’t qualify for financial assistance and don’t have the cash on hand to cover MRI costs, know that there are medical loans available that can help with these expenses.A medical loan is a type of personal loan, so first review the personal loan requirements to make sure you qualify. From there, compare interest rates and fees to find the best deal possible.

The Takeaway

The average cost of an MRI is just over $1,300, with an average range of $375 to $2,850. Those with insurance may pay just a copay or up to $1,000 (or more), depending on their policy. Like other medical procedures, you can always shop around for the best price or get a second opinion.When it comes time to pay for your MRI, you can pay with cash, go on a monthly payment plan if the medical facility offers one, put the cost on a credit card, or take out a personal loan.If you’re looking to take out a personal loan, Lantern by SoFi can help. With just a simple application, Lantern allows you to shop top personal loans all in one spot, with no obligation to you.Lantern can help you compare rates and find loan offers in minutes.

Frequently Asked Questions

How much does an MRI cost?
Why are MRIs so expensive?
Is an MRI more expensive than a CT scan?
Photo credit: iStock/izusek

About the Author

Susan Guillory

Susan Guillory

Su Guillory is a freelance business writer and expat coach. She’s written several business books and has been published on sites including Forbes, AllBusiness, and SoFi. She writes about business and personal credit, financial strategies, loans, and credit cards.
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