What is an Open MRI and Will My Insurance Cover It?

Open MRI machines can offer the same great diagnostic imaging as their closed-bore counterparts, but without requiring patients to slip into a fully enclosed space. On the other hand, open-bed machines can’t accommodate every type of scan, and they might not match the resolution of the most powerful enclosed equipment.

So when should you ask for an open MRI? Perhaps more importantly, will your insurance cover both types of procedures equally? Here’s what you should know before searching for the right imaging provider:

  • Open MRIs are great for claustrophobic patients. Unlike closed-bore machines, which are infamous for their narrow enclosures, these machines let patients see freely to both sides.
    Oasis Open MRI Machine

    Typically, MRI patients must lie on their backs during the whole procedure, which can last anywhere from 10 minutes to an hour or more. In an enclosed space, that’s a lot to ask of large, heavy, pregnant, or claustrophobic patients. Enter the open MRI, a machine that allows patients to lie underneath a suspended disc, free from full enclosure.

  • Both closed and open magnetic resonance imaging machines work exactly the same way. They both create a strong magnetic field, then emit pulses of radio frequency energythrough their enclosures. Scanners track the resulting movement of protons through the body to create a highly accurate 3D portrait of your insides.
  • Open MRI machines can’t always match the magnet strength of traditional designs. Typically, this isn’t a concern. Some closed-bore machines can create strong magnetic fields, up to 3 teslas (a unit that measures magnet strength). Even high-field open MRIs can’t match that level of power. But most types of imaging don’t require such powerful magnets, anyway, so feel free to ask your doctor about your own procedure.

If you’re one of the approximately 4 percent of people who suffers from serious claustrophobia — or if there’s any other reason the closed tube of a typical MRI machine seems uncomfortable — find a provider who offers open imaging services.

It’s easy to find a low-cost imaging provider through bestpricemri.com, whether you’re paying out of pocket or through insurance. Speaking of insurance…

Open MRI Procedures and Health Insurance: Covered or Not?

The benefits of open MRIs are clear to patients, but insurers and patients don’t always see eye to eye.

Coverage for diagnostic imaging depends largely on your insurance plan. Ask yourself the following questions before shopping for a diagnostic procedure:

Do you have a high-deductible plan?

If so, your insurance won’t start sharing costs until you meet that deductible, no matter what type of procedure your doctor orders. In that case, it’s best to shop around for the lowest price on an open MRI — as long as you know you’re getting the best value for your expense.

high-deductible plan

Does your insurance plan require pre-qualification for diagnostic tests?

We hate to refer you to the fine print, but some insurers won’t pay for certain procedures unless you have them authorized ahead of time. Either way, there shouldn’t be a difference between an open and a closed imaging session.

Is the procedure “medically necessary” under your insurer’s definition of that term?

Many insurance companies cover MRIs of all types, but only if they’re “medically necessary.” The best way to find out if your insurer will cover medical imaging is to call your insurance agent. Just be sure to place the call before you go in for the procedure.

Even if your insurance company refuses to cover an MRI, you still have options for low-cost, high-quality diagnostics. Just book with bestpriceMRI.com at 888-322-7785 to get the lowest cash price on an open MRI, or any other type of medical imaging.




Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI).” NIBIB/NIH. National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering, n.d. Web. 2 Feb. 2017.

Psychologists closing in on causes of claustrophobic fear.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 13 Apr. 2011. Web. 2 Feb. 2017.