MRI Pricing: What Are My Options if I Can’t Afford an MRI?

MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) examinations are relatively common; according to one estimate, the United States has more MRI scanners per capita than any other country except for Japan, and physicians regularly recommend the exams as a key part of the diagnostic process. The examinations are medically quite useful, but at many facilities, MRI pricing is prohibitively expensive.

As we’ve mentioned on other blogs, this is due to several factors, including the high cost of the actual machines themselves. New MRI scanners can easily cost $3 million, and that expense gets passed on to patients and their insurance providers. Patients are often shocked to see bills of $2,500 or more per examination.

If you’re reading this page, there’s a good chance that you or someone you know needs an MRI, but the high costs of the examination—even with insurance—can limit your options. The good news is that you can often reduce MRI expenses considerably by employing a simple tactic: cost comparison.

Understanding MRI Pricing Factors (And Controlling Your Bill)

Even with insurance, MRIs are sometimes prohibitively expensive, but facilities charge very different rates. The final bill includes everything associated with the examination, including contrast dyes and radiologist fees. MRI facilities try to make profits, of course, and they’re pretty much allowed to charge whatever they want.

Some facilities don’t tell patients about the high costs associated with imaging examinations until after the exam is complete. Unfortunately, many patients don’t think to ask about MRI pricing, especially if they have insurance. While insurance companies typically reimburse the expenses, some require authorization first—and as the patient, you’re expected to know that.


Needless to say, this complicates MRI pricing considerably, but it’s still an essentially free market, even if it doesn’t exactly feel like one. You’re legally allowed to shop around. That’s important, because as we pointed out earlier, there are quite a few high-quality MRI scanners in the United States. By comparing prices, you can pay much less.

How much less? Many reputable facilities offer MRIs for under $400, regardless of whether you have insurance if you pay upfront with cash or credit card. Contrast and other services would be an additional fee.  The radiologist report is included in the initial MRI fee. While standing MRIs and open MRIs tend to be more expensive than closed MRIs, you can still compare costs and save thousands of dollars.

There are a few caveats. First, you’ll have to check whether your insurance will cover all or part of the MRI so that you can develop an accurate budget.. You’ll also want to make sure that your facility has well-trained radiologists and top-strength machinery capable of providing a reliable diagnostic image.

If you’re not familiar with imaging technology, this can pose something of a hurdle. BestPriceMRI provides a resource for patients by vetting MRI facilities, obtaining price lists, and providing a ZIP-code based tool for safe cost comparison. We can also help you understand the examination process and choose an exam location that will provide accurate imaging at a reasonable price.

A big factor as well is your locations.  Competitive areas such as Los Angeles or Orange County will have much cheaper cash prices due to the competition but areas such as San Francisco or Henderson, NV where there are not as many facilities competing for the same MRI business do not have to offer prices as cheap for cash patients.  If you want to get the best service and a cheap price it might be worth it to drive out the of the way to a city such as Los Angeles to save hundreds of possibly thousands of dollars.


To compare MRI pricing in your area, call us today at 888-322-7785 or compare the costs instantly.

Health at a Glance 2015: Medical Technologies.OECDiLibrary. OECD, 2015. Web. 3 Feb. 2017