Why Does a CT Scan Cost So Much at the Hospital?

July 5, 2018 – 3 min read

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A CT scan is an important diagnostic test that can help detect a number of serious health issues. It primarily uses X-ray technology to take cross-sectional images of different parts of the body, although it is able to visualize much more soft tissue than a traditional X-ray does. However, many people decline getting the test, even when strongly urged to by their physicians, simply because CT scan cost is so high at hospitals.


Insurance Dictates the Cost of Diagnostic Testing

How much insurance pays for a particular test, such as an X-ray, a CT scan, or even an MRI, dictates how much a practice will charge a patient for the test. Most practices use the fee schedule that Medicare provides as their guideline since Medicare is widely available and considered a “standard” in the industry, unlike the hundreds of different private insurance plans that patients can have.

If, for example, a practice charges $800 for a CT scan and insurance reimburses the practice $300, the patient is left with a $500 bill.


Hospitals Bloat Imaging Costs for Insured Patients to Make Up for Patients Who Have Low Paying Insurances or Who Are Unable to Pay

Hospitals — in particular, emergency rooms — are legally required to provide emergency care to patients in need regardless of what insurance they have or their ability to pay. As a result, hospitals collect much less from some individuals than the cost of the care provided to them, creating a deficit. Because insurance plans still only pay a certain amount for diagnostic tests, hospitals are bloating the overall cost of the test and leaving insured patients to pick up the slack.

Using the above example, insurance still only reimburses the practice $300 for a CT scan. But to cover the cost of patients who cannot pay, as well as high overhead costs for 24/7 staff and building expenses, the hospital may inflate their cost for a CT scan to $10,000 or more. This means for the very same test, just at a different facility, the patient is saddled with a $9,700 bill.

Well-known, established, and highly accredited hospitals have more power when it comes to setting their prices. Patients want to go to these hospitals because of their reputation, not realizing that while the CT scan cost is higher, the quality of care isn’t necessarily better.


The Benefit of Private Imaging

When diagnostic imaging is recommended and it is not an emergency, it is likely in the patient’s best interest to explore different options for having the imaging done. At a private imaging facility, the costs are likely to be much less than at a hospital, and the test results and image records can still be sent to the patient’s doctor for interpretation.

At American Health Imaging, we understand how important your health is and we believe you shouldn’t have to choose between your health and affordability. We offer a wide variety of diagnostic imaging, including CT scans with and without contrast, MRI imaging with and without contrast, ultrasounds, and liver scanning. Contact us today to book your diagnostic testing by calling (855) MRI-CHOICE.