frequently asked questions about MRIs

How Much Does an MRI Cost?

Magnetic resonance imaging, or an MRI, is a potent but non-invasive imaging tool or scan used to produce detailed images of various body parts in medicine. According to one survey, the United States completed 36 million MRI examinations in 2017. 

An MRI creates highly detailed images of the interior of your body using magnets and radio waves. Your doctor may request an MRI as part of your treatment plan or discover and diagnose disorders.

The body part getting scanned, your health insurance, and the location of the service can all affect how much an MRI costs. 

This post reviews the costing factors you should consider if your doctor advises getting an MRI.

Factors Influencing The MRI Procedure Costs

Firstly, part of what you’re paying for when you get an MRI is the machine’s operational cost, which can be over $100,000 annually. Other factors also come into play, including the following:

  • In-network vs. out-of-network providers: Your network providers are obligated only to charge you the predetermined rate agreed upon with your insurance provider. If you don’t have health insurance, this rate is generally much higher than what you’d pay if you didn’t pay out-of-pocket.
  • Type of health insurance: The cost of an MRI might range from a fixed copay to a portion of the total bill, based on your insurance policies.
  • Scan type: An open MRI is less expensive to perform than a conventional or closed MRI. Additionally, a contrast-enhanced MRI costs more.
  • Region of the country: The price of an MRI scan may differ from state to state.
  • Scanned body parts: The cost of an MRI exam depends partly on the size and number of areas to be examined. Different bodily areas require scanning for varying amounts of time. Additionally, there are differences in how long it takes to decipher a scan’s results. 

A brain MRI can cost up to $1,200 since it involves a more thorough study from a qualified medical professional, while an abdominal scan costs $776, according to Healthcare’s Bluebook. This is because of the time it takes to scan different body parts and the fact that contrast is necessary for some of them. 

Therefore, costs typically increase as the patient spends more time in the MRI machine. Before having an MRI, discuss with your radiologist the precise specifications of the scan you need and whether or not a contrast agent would be necessary. This can clarify your final cost.

  • Sedatives: Claustrophobics may require sedatives, which might increase pharmaceutical costs. The expenses will vary depending on the method of sedation, which could be oral, IV conscious sedation, or general anesthetic. Sedatives such as Xanax, Phenobarbital, and Fentanyl are some of the medications that a doctor may administer to alleviate discomfort and anxiety during an MRI.
  • Place of service(inpatient vs. outpatient) – Your procedure fees may change depending on your choice of MRI provider. MRIs cost more in places where people stay-in, like hospitals than in places where people just come and go. 

Inpatient operations are frequently more expensive since these facilities have higher maintenance costs and may need more supplies and services due to prolonged stays.

Radiologist reading: A radiologist might read and analyze your data for an additional fee.

Various Types of MRIs

Not every MRI works the same way. One of the best ways to prepare for your MRI cost is by knowing the type of MRI prescribed. In general, there are three types of MRI procedures: 

– contrasted MRI; 

– Non-contrasted MRI; 

– Contrast and non-contrast MRI

For the MRI scan with and without contrast, the same part of the body is scanned twice, once with a contrast agent and once without.

Understanding MRI Contrast

Your radiologist may decide to employ a contrast agent to improve the imaging, depending on the part of the body under consideration or the objective of the scan. It is possible to enhance the visibility of blood arteries, tumors, inflammation, and even specific organs using contrast chemicals.

What is an MRI Contrast Agent?

Contrast agents are dyes that enhance the visibility of scanned pictures. They are typically administered either by ingestion or injection into a vein.

MRI radiologists frequently employ the following contrast materials:

  • Barium-sulfate 
  • Gadolinium
  • Iodine

Is MRI An Option For The Claustrophobic?

You may receive medication to help you beat MRI claustrophobia (fear of confined spaces), so you feel less worried and sleepy. So you don’t have to worry about dealing with any such concerns. 

The following areas are specific to MRI procedures:

  • Cardiac MRI – Screening of the heart and large blood arteries to evaluate the condition and functionality of the heart. A cardiac MRI may produce moving or still images.
  • Brain MRI – This involves the examination of the brain and nerve structures using MRI Images. Most of the time, it helps to identify and treat neurological problems.
  • Pelvic MRI – MRI scan shows the pelvic region, which is close to the hip bones. The scan displays pictures of the bladder, lymph nodes, and reproductive organs in relation to the pelvic bones.
  • Spinal MRI – The scan concentrates on specific regions of the spine to detect injuries, nerve damage, and abnormalities.

MRIs are also performed on other regions of the body. Such scans typically cost less than a full-body MRI. On the other hand, full-body MRIs can be more expensive and time-consuming. Some of the less popular types of MRIs include:

  • Chest MRI
  • Breast MRI
  • Spinal MRI
  • Abdominal MRI
  • Lower extremity (foot, hip, ankle, leg) MRI,
  • Upper extremity (hand, shoulder, wrist, or arm) MRI

Comparing Closed MRI vs. Open MRI

The standard MRI system is a closed MRI. The patient lies on their back and enters a cylindrical opening in the device’s center. The equipment creates a restricted area around them, except for a small side entrance via which technicians move them into the vessel.

The apertures in closed MRI machines are narrow and hollow. Although “wide bore” variants exist with openings of 70 cm (28 inches) or more, the vast majority of them have openings of 60 cm (24 inches) or less.

Closed MRIs have the advantage of producing the most thorough results. The design of the machine allows for the production of more powerful magnetic fields, which should, in turn, yield better-quality images for the examining physician and facilitate more accurate diagnosis.

Closed MRIs can be helpful in diverse medical situations. They are especially useful for finding liver tumors, lesions caused by multiple sclerosis, fibrocartilage lesions, and the anatomy of complex body parts like the wrist.

While most magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanners are the closed types, open and upright MRIs are also used in the medical field.

Open MRI Machine

The open MRI is a newer type of MRI made for people with claustrophobia. With the sides open and the active component of the apparatus hovering over the patient’s head, they resemble enormous donuts. More space is created by the placement of magnets above and below.

The fact that open MRIs produce less less-detailed results than closed MRI machines is one of their drawbacks. In addition, patients may need to remain in the machine for a more extended period to get the desired images. 

What is the duration of an open MRI? 

Typically, an open MRI takes 1.5-2 times as long as a closed MRI.

However, there are still compelling reasons to use open MRIs, notwithstanding their drawbacks. For instance, they typically cater to children better. Additionally, open MRI machines can be tilted, and because they are typically quieter, they can benefit jittery or anxious people. Usually, open MRIs are recommended for shoulder injuries.

Surprisingly, open MRIs are roughly equal in cost to regular MRIs. However, doctors often won’t approve an open MRI unless they deem it medically required or in the patient’s best interests. Insurance companies pay for open MRIs just like ordinary MRIs.

Upright MRI Machine

There is also a type of MRI scanner called an “upright MRI,” which allows patients to either stand or sit throughout the procedure.

With insurance, how much does an MRI cost?

If you have medical insurance, the cost of an MRI may be anywhere from $1,000 to $5,000. Your insurance sets copayments and deductibles, so you must verify these details if you’re under a policy.

If you satisfy all your deductibles, your usual out-of-pocket copays will range from $20 to $100 (covering the procedure and consultation). Insurers will only pay for MRIs that they deem “medically necessary,” thus patients will not be able to receive reimbursement for cosmetic scans.

Can Insurance cover the Total Cost of an MRI?

MRIs and other imaging examinations are typically partially covered by health insurance. To find out if and how much of an MRI will be reimbursed by insurance, get in touch with your insurance company. 

Hence, you could still have to pay some out-of-pocket expenses. However, depending on your job, some health plans will pay 100% of your MRI expenses.

For instance, several of the health plans provided by the New York Health Benefits program include full coverage for approved MRIs. It’s also crucial to verify with your health insurance provider to see if a referral or prior authorization is mandatory for an MRI.

How Much Does MRI Cost Without Insurance (Out of pocket)?

A doctor’s referral is usually sufficient to obtain an MRI without insurance. It’s simple to learn how to get an MRI even if you don’t have insurance, but you’ll have to pay for it yourself.

The cost of an MRI is typically lower than what clinics would bill a health insurance provider. The typical cost for a patient without insurance in the United States ranges from $375 to $2,850.

To lower your upfront costs, you might inquire with your healthcare practitioner about the following financial options:

  • Medical payment options
  • Discounts
  • Assistance programs

If you want to further reduce your MRI costs, consider trying these steps:

  • Avoid going to the emergency room: The costs of running the machines are much higher there. Additionally, because emergency rooms are obligated by law to treat every patient, regardless of whether they have insurance, they frequently have unpaid bills that they have to cover.
  • Visit a standalone imaging center: The best approach is to visit a standalone diagnostic center. These typically provide you more negotiating power, which contributes to low prices. Therefore, you can always look elsewhere for a lower price if you feel the charges are too high.

The Cost of Out-of-Pocket MRIs

You can use a search engine by the American College of Radiology to find imaging centers nearby. According to Radiology Assist, a national initiative that offers underinsured persons access to affordable MRIs and other imaging treatments, a person without insurance should anticipate paying roughly $2,000 for an MRI. 

The following are some MRI costs estimations for various types of MRI performed without insurance:

  • Brain MRI – $225 – $1400
  • Knee MRI – $300 – $800
  • Abdominal MRI – $3500 – $5500
  • Shoulder MRI – $375 – $850

Without health insurance, the price of an MRI of the back might easily exceed $1,400.

Plus, CT scan prices are comparable and in a similar range. On the low end, charges start at $270, while on the high end, they may reach $5,000. Always remember, costs depend on where you live and what kind of facility you choose.

Additional Costs Associated With MRI Procedures

As earlier stated, sedation may be necessary for certain patients because of their inability to remain motionless for the duration of the procedure (which may last from 15 minutes to well over an hour). 

Diprivan is another moderate sedative frequently prescribed to individuals who experience feelings of anxiety or claustrophobia during the procedure. This medication increases the price by $125 to $400.

You should also anticipate costs for doctor visits added to the above rates on your bill.

Securing Lower Prices For MRIs

Even within the same municipality, the price of an MRI scan can differ widely. The best way to secure a better deal on your MRI cost is to compare prices from different MRI providers.

Hospitals are typically the most expensive sites to receive an MRI, charging three to five times as much as other facilities. Prices for independent imaging facilities generally are lower.

The uninsured or those unable to afford the scan out of pocket will likely find some hospitals and imaging centers accommodating. To prevent patients from paying the entire balance at once, they might offer discounts for cash payments or set up a payment plan. Also, you might charge the expense to a credit card with a low APR for balance transfers.

The cost of medical care can quickly become prohibitive, especially for individuals without insurance or with high deductible policies. Although MRIs are frequently regarded as medically necessary for diagnosis and treatment planning, patients can still find more affordable treatment options.

Key Takeaways

  • MRI is a medical scan that generates comprehensive images of internal organs to diagnose diseases.
  • The average cost of an MRI can vary from $375 to $5,000. But you can even pay upwards of $10,000 depending on the region, health insurance, supplementary prescriptions, the provider, and the body area scanned.
  • Authorized MRIs are frequently part of health insurance. You might still have to pay for coinsurance, copays, or deductibles.

Medmo connects patients with medical imaging prices they can afford, guaranteeing patients will receive the most convenient and affordable services at quality centers, as well as lowering their out-of-pocket costs, even with insurance.

To book a breast cancer screening, visit us at Medmo helps people schedule radiology imaging tests—such as MRI, CT scans, PET, and more—at nearby accredited centers and identify the payment solution that works best for them


Internal Links

Ready to get started?

Here’s what you’ll need to schedule an appointment

  • 1. Imaging referral / prescription

  • 2. Your contact information

  • 3. Insurance OR card information


Most recent posts

What Is MRI Contrast and When Do You Need It?

MRI scans provide incredibly detailed pictures of your bones, joints, muscles, and organs. If you need an MRI, you may have noticed that your prescription specifies "with contrast" or "without contrast." If so, you're probably wondering what contrast is used for, and whether it's safe.
Read more

How to Beat MRI Claustrophobia

No one likes being in tight spaces, but for some, close quarters can feel like a nightmare. If you experience intense claustrophobia but need an MRI, we recommend following these five tips before your scan to ensure your experience is comfortable – or, at a minimum, tolerable!
Read more

How To Find a Radiology Imaging Center

If you need a medical scan, like an MRI or CT scan, you'll want to find the right balance of price, quality, and convenience. In many cases, these three factors are related. So what's the best solution?
Read more