Why Is an MRI So Expensive at a Hospital?

November 1, 2017 – 3 min read

Share this post:

Why Is an MRI So Expensive at a Hospital

The pain in your back is too much to bear. Or, perhaps you fear arthritis is setting in. Whatever the cause, your physician recommended you get an MRI to have the problem examined. The only problem is that you just found out that your local hospital charges more than you can afford. So why is an MRI so expensive?

The cost of an MRI varies based on where you have the test done, the body part being imaged, and several other factors. Recently, there have been a lot of reports of MRI costs going up, especially in hospital settings.

Has your doctor recommended you undergo an MRI? Find out how much it will cost, with or without insurance, by using our MRI and CT Cost Calculator.

Why Does an MRI Cost So Much? Unaffordable MRI Costs in Real Life

A family took their 3-year-old daughter for an MRI. She suffered from a rare genetic disorder and had already undergone CT scans, colonoscopies, ultrasounds and other tests.

Based on those experiences, the family assumed the MRI cost would be a few thousand dollars. So, they opted for an out-of-network provider in California and agreed to pay half of the cost themselves. Then they got the bill. They owed well over $25,000.

Why MRIs Are So Expensive: Secrecy

One of the problems the family faced was transparency. They couldn’t learn the cost of their child’s MRI beforehand, and the hospital reps gave no indication the cost would be so high.

This isn’t the only family who has experienced sticker shock. There’s a growing trend of hospitals keeping MRI costs secret. If patients learn the cost, hospital administrators fear they’ll go elsewhere.

To counteract this effect, journalists are calling for patients to go public. These journalists want to shed light on how much hospitals charge for MRIs.

Why MRIs Are So Expensive: Hospital Costs

Overhead costs can help explain why hospitals charge so much for MRIs. The hospital must buy the MRI equipment and then pay to keep it maintained and updated. Additionally, the MRI administrator charges fees to the hospital.

These costs are pushed on patients. As a result, it’s almost always less expensive to get an MRI at a freestanding imaging clinic. Because these specialty clinics focus on imaging, they typically do more MRIs than hospitals. This allows the equipment, maintenance and administration fees to be spread over more patients, lowering the cost for each patient.

Hospitals can’t do that. To make matters worse, hospitals often charge more for certain tests to cover the costs of other departments. Emergency rooms and intensive care units are notoriously expensive to run, and they often lose money. To make up for this loss, hospitals may upcharge your MRI.

Other Factors Affecting Costs

Payment method can also impact the cost of an MRI. Paying out of pocket may cost more than billing insurers. Or hospitals or clinics may offer discounts to people who pay in cash.

 At American Health Imaging, we offer cost-effective, quality MRIs for our patients, and we do it with full transparency. Whether you are a patient or a doctor, contact us to learn how we can meet your imaging needs.

This post was updated on 11/17/2020.