Why does an MRI cost so freaking much?

A patient was charged $16K for a 30 minute MRI

About 2 years ago, young parents of 3-year old Elodie took her to one of the best hospitals in the country to take an MRI to diagnose a serious illness.  They were up for a very bad surprise. The tests, fortunately, came up negative. However, the MRI cost them over $16K for just a 30-minute exam. Today many patients face the same problem, either they similarly fall through the insurance cracks or even belong to the group of high-deductible patients who are underinsured and are many times charged the full sticker price for an MRI. Why do MRIs cost so much?

MRI cost in the US is now 10x the price of an MRI scan in Europe

While MRI costs anywhere from $800-$6,000 with the average cost north of $1,100 it’s now almost 10x as expensive as in the countries of the European Union. Even with the higher salaries in the US medical field, it’s hard to account for such a big difference.

The actual costs of providing MRI service are comparable to other countries

Cost of MRI machines: $150K – $3M +

You can think of MRI machine types as car models: there are low costs & reliable machines just like a Toyota Camry ( you can buy a 0.3-1T cheaper machine for as little as $150K) while the high-end machines just like sports cars can cost north of $3M. Over the 10 years + lifetime of a usual machine, the cost per scan can come to be as little as $75-$150.

Cost of radiologist reading: $40 – $300

While radiologists are paid $250+ per hour, the actual MRI cost of reading is much lower as a skilled radiologist can do anywhere between 5-15 scans per hour. This allows for a facility that works with a teleradiologist, who sits in a more affordable location like Nevada to charge as little as $40 per scan reading.

MRI prices are driven by high markups

Hospitals mark up the prices of all of the services they offer because the insurance payment for each service is normally arbitrary and unpredictable. By charging many times the reasonable rate for each service, hospitals are able to “cash in” on the occasional gross overpayment that insurance companies offer from time to time. This is especially prevalent in the pricing of MRI scans.

US healthcare is failing its patients

With such high margins, it’s no surprise that US healthcare is failing its patients. Currently, almost 18% of GDP goes to healthcare expenses, which is about ~50% more than in many developed countries. The only way how we can as consumers changes this is to vote with our feet and go to facilities that are more affordable for patients. So please always ask your doctor for a recommendation for a more affordable clinic and once you get your referral, don’t hesitate to go to a more affordable location.

How can you stop this price gauging?

Vote with your feet & get an Affordable MRI scan

Our goal at AffordableScan is to provide patient multiple options, so you can always find the scan for the rate that you can afford. If you need help, please don’t hesitate to contact our patient concierges.

Not sure where to start?

Get a quote for an affordable scan >

AffordableScan Team

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