Ouch! The Cost of an MRI

Posted on November 10, 2010 17 Comments

Ever wonder what an MRI costs? My bills just came in for my knee injury – which still isn’t fixed, frustratingly – so I thought I’d share…

Here’s the rundown before the insurance kicked in:

  • Bill 1: When my knee was injured, I saw a specialist. That cost $294 for a 20-minute session with the orthopaedic doctor. He ordered a few X-rays, which addded a cost of $167 to my bill. Based on this appointment, he recommended an MRI.
  • Bills 2 and 3: The hospital charged me $2,950 for the radiology bill. Additionally, I received a charge from the Faculty Foundation, separate from the hospital, for $347 for “MRI outpatient.” Presumably this was the charge for the doctor to review my MRI results, though it’s difficult to tell unless I call and inquire about it.
  • Bill 4: Then, for the follow-up appointment, I was charged an additional $131 for the specialist’s time to give me a diagnosis. (I’m now in physical therapy for five weeks – I’m considering those charges separately.)

So prior to insurance, provided that all the bills have come in, I owed the hospital $3,889. (About the amount in my designated “rainy day fund” that is separate from all my savings).

Thankfully I have insurance, unlike a lot of people I know. Here’s the breakdown of what I owe after insurance:

  • Bill 1 (initial consultation and x-rays): I owe $36.40 (there was a nice reduction because I stayed in-network)
  • Bill 2 (MRI from hospital): I owe $221.25
  • Bill 3 (random “MRI outpatient” bill): I owe $26.20
  • Bill 4 (second consultation): I owe $25 (again, in-network reduction worked here)

In total, I owe $308.85 - not insignificant, but a small portion of the original cost. I wish I had money left in my flex spending to cover the costs, but I wasn’t anticipating any major procedures this year and so only put in enough to cover routine care.

Looking at these bills, though thoroughly confusing, makes me consider how lucky I am that I can work with physicians and physical therapists to get myself back into running form. I hear so many sob stories on TV about people who “used to run” or “used to work out” and have since become overweight or obese. I really didn’t get how that was possible, but when I look at these numbers, it’s easy to see how it could happen to someone out of a job with no insurance – she may try to stay healthy and work out, but a fall, a slip, a tear, or just overuse can stop an athlete in her tracks. And without the right network of care, she might never get back to her passion.

I pray there’s never a day when I’m uninsured. My boyfriend has been off and on insurance for years – even a white collar professional can become one of America’s uninsured while between jobs. (And as a former financial services sector employee, he’s been there a few times.) Currently a full-time law student, he is on some kind of minimal catastrophic coverage plan through his University. I hope he has a rainy day fund :(

Category: Money
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17 Responses to “Ouch! The Cost of an MRI”

  1. kim
    November 10th, 2010 @ 11:36 pm

    i have a pituitary tumor so an MRI every 2 years is pretty much “required”. last one cost a little over $800 for me, AFTER insurance. consider yourself lucky! :)

  2. Nicole
    November 11th, 2010 @ 1:18 am

    Yeah, I was pretty lucky with this total. I actually expected it to be closer to $500 so I underestimated. But if this was not in-network the figure would have been closer to $700.

    Do they charge different $$ for different scans? Since mine was just a knee maybe it’s cheaper. That’s a huge difference in costs!

  3. allison
    November 11th, 2010 @ 3:07 pm

    thank goodness for insurance. the price of health care is insane.

  4. kim
    November 11th, 2010 @ 5:06 pm

    i think it does depend, and i need to be injected with dye halfway through so that might be more expensive. though the scan before this one (SAME scan) cost me a little over $500 after insurance. insane is right!

    best of luck with your knee though. i had knee surgery and still deal with dislocated kneecaps. not fun! :)

  5. Nicole
    November 11th, 2010 @ 6:47 pm

    $500 vs. $800 for the same thing? That’s wacky! Was there an explanation?

    The good news for me is that the MRI pretty much ruled out surgery. Just some soft tissue stuff going on in there so hopefully some PT and focused rehab will make it better.

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  7. Lisa @ Cents To Save
    November 13th, 2010 @ 3:24 pm

    I work at an outpatient radiology center. We have self pay prices that are usually much cheaper. They will not bill to insurance when you do this.

    Our center also caters to the “pain clinics” patients… They get an MRI for 250.00 radiologist reading and everything. Before you get too excited about going to a “pain clinic” doctor… these shady docs are writing prescriptions for oxycodone addicted patients. It is a terrible thing to see and I hate that our center is a part of it.

    Shop around for better prices though.

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