Healthcare Shopping for Medical Imaging: How Transparent is Your State’s Pricing?

Healthcare shopping doesn’t have the greatest reputation, but we have good news: When your doctor orders a medical imaging procedure — whether that’s an MRI, an ultrasound, or just a quick X-ray — you have lots of options. That means you can compare prices and services, ultimately choosing the provider that’s right for you.

Of course, in order to comparison shop for a healthcare procedure, you need access to upfront pricing. Depending on where you live, that can be a challenge. Every year, the medical think tank Health Care Incentives Improvement Institute publishes the Catalyst for Payment Reform (CPR) Report Card on State Price Transparency Laws. We studied the latest version of this document to learn more about medical spending transparency in three states — California, Nevada, and Arizona — to see if comparison shopping for medical imaging services is even possible in these locations. Here’s what we found out, followed by our advice on healthcare shopping for medical imaging services even when pricing transparency through a state agency is unavailable.


While there are plenty of affordable imaging providers in the Golden State, many of them don’t make their prices easy to find. California is ahead of many other states, in that it does have an all-payer claims database (APCD). However, participation in this database is voluntary. The state does not compel healthcare providers, insurance companies, or self-funding patients to submit their costs. For this oversight, the health Care Incentives Improvement Institute gave California a failing grade.


The Nevada legislature has not passed a law creating an APCD. Patients in that state can only learn about pricing for medical imaging services by calling around, and even that often fails, as many providers fail to disclose prices before treating patients. Their grade? Another F.


Arizona is another state that doesn’t provide consumers with accurate pricing data through an APCD. According to the APCD Council, though, there is strong interest in creating a health pricing database in the state’s legislature. For now, Arizona is stuck with an F from the Health Care Incentives Improvement Institute.

Smart Healthcare Shopping in States that Lack Pricing Transparency Laws

Residents of states that receive failing grades from the HCIII (which is most of them) can still find pricing information from their medical service providers. They just have to choose the right ones.

Find a medical imaging provider that offers clear, upfront pricing. posts pricing for each of its facilities on the website, and even goes a step farther. The location finder tool, available here, allows users to compare prices from one area to another.

It certainly doesn’t hurt that these prices are exceedingly low, thanks to’s negotiated cash payment option. You don’t have to wait around for state legislatures to pass medical pricing transparency laws. When your doctor orders an MRI or other imaging procedure, shop around and compare low cash prices with Healthcare shopping doesn’t have to be a headache.


Brantes, Francois and Suzanne Delbanco. “Report Card on State Price Transparency Laws – July 2016.” Catalyze. Health Care Incentives Improvement Institute, July 2016. PDF. 9 June 2017.

Interactive State Report Map.” APCDCouncil. APCD Council, 2017. Web. 9 June 2017.