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HomeHealth TopicDiagnostics

How Much Does an MRI Cost?

DeShena Woodard, BSN, RN
Published on July 7, 2022

Key takeaways:

  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is a type of medical imaging scan that produces detailed pictures of areas inside the body to help diagnose conditions.

  • The average cost of an MRI can range anywhere from $400 to $12,000, depending on the place of service, health insurance, location, extra medications, the provider, and body part scanned.

  • Health insurance typically covers authorized MRIs. You may still encounter some out-of-pocket costs such as deductibles, copays, or coinsurance.

Doctor preparing a female patient for an MRI
shironosov/iStock via Getty Images
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An MRI, or magnetic resonance imaging, is a powerful yet noninvasive imaging device or scan. One study reveals that approximately 36 million MRI procedures were performed in the U.S. in 2017. An MRI uses magnets and radio waves to produce detailed 3D images of inside your body. Your healthcare provider may order an MRI to help detect and diagnose diseases or monitor treatments.

The price of an MRI can vary based on the body part scanned, your health insurance, and the place of service. Below, we’ll review the various costs you should consider if your healthcare provider recommends an MRI.

What factors affect the cost of an MRI?

Several factors can affect the cost you will have to pay for an MRI, which includes the following:

  • Type of health insurance: Depending on your insurance benefits, the cost of an MRI can vary from a set copay to a percentage of the overall bill.

  • In-network vs. out-of-network providers: Providers in your network can only charge the contracted rate that was negotiated with the insurance company. This rate is typically much lower than the out-of-network or out-of-pocket costs you would pay without insurance.

  • Type of scan: Doing an open MRI is less expensive than a traditional or closed MRI scan. An MRI scan with contrast also costs more.

  • Body area being scanned: MRI prices can also vary based on body parts. For example, a brain scan may cost more than a knee scan, as it requires a more detailed analysis from a specialized doctor.

  • Place of service (inpatient vs. outpatient): The location can affect cost. Having your scan at a freestanding MRI center typically costs less than a scan at the hospital, as freestanding centers are cheaper to run.

  • Region of the country: Your city, state, or area of the country may affect MRI costs.

  • Sedatives: Claustrophobic people may need a sedative, which can add extra medication costs. The type of sedation required (oral, IV conscious sedation, or general anesthesia) will affect the costs. Xanax, Phenobarbital, and Fentanyl are examples of sedatives that a doctor may prescribe to reduce your pain and anxiety during an MRI.

  • Radiologist reading: There may be an extra charge for a radiologist to review and interpret your results.

What is the average cost of an MRI?

One report shows that the target “fair price” for an MRI is around $750. However, the actual price you may pay can be as low as “no charge” with the right insurance benefits. On the other hand, it can be as much as several thousand dollars without any insurance at all.

The target “fair price” can rise significantly depending on the body part that needs to be scanned. An MRI scan can be used from head to toe. Some common body parts that are candidates for an MRI include:

  • Abdomen

  • Arm

  • Brain

  • Breasts

  • Bones

  • Hip

  • Joints

  • Knee

  • Leg

  • Pelvis

  • Shoulder

  • Spinal cord

Below are a few examples from a healthcare marketplace of average MRI costs based on location on the body.

MRI procedure 

Average cost

Bone

$410-$2,100

Brain 

$1,600-$8,400 

Cervical spine 

$1,400-$7,600

Chest

$500-$7,900

Neck MRI 

$500-$11,800

Pelvic MRI 

$500-$7,900

You’ll also need to adjust the average cost for the cost of medications that may be needed. For instance, the average cost of an MRI may go up if you require oral, IV conscious sedation, or general anesthesia. Oral sedatives require the least monitoring. An IV sedative needs to be administered by a nurse. Higher-dose IV sedatives/anesthesia need to be monitored by an anesthesiologist. Each level of monitoring increases the expense.

If your doctor recommends an MRI, you should inquire about the costs involved so you won’t be faced with any surprise bills later.

How much does an MRI cost without insurance?

One of the most significant factors affecting your MRI cost is whether you have insurance. People who do not have health insurance have to shoulder the total cost of the MRI. That means the scan will ultimately cost you more money out of pocket.

You can ask your healthcare provider about the following financial options to reduce your upfront costs:

  • Assistance programs

  • Discounts

  • Medical payment plans

You may receive two separate bills for an MRI: one from the facility, and the other from the radiologist. Billing will depend on your healthcare provider and the location you choose for your services. MRIs at emergency rooms are typically more expensive than in other locations. For instance, an MRI could cost $4,000 at a hospital ER and only $400 at a nearby imaging center.

If you want to reduce your overall costs, ask your doctor if you can explore the following options:

  • Freestanding imaging center

  • Walk-in clinic

  • Urgent care

These options tend to be the most affordable. However, you should do your research and ask the right questions to ensure you get the quality of care you need.

The American College of Radiology offers a search tool to help you find imaging facilities in your area. Radiology Assist — a national program that gives underinsured individuals access to affordable MRIs and other imaging procedures — notes that a person without insurance should expect to pay an average cost of around $2,000 for an MRI.

Does health insurance cover the full cost of an MRI?

Imaging tests like MRIs are generally covered in some part by health insurance. You should contact your insurance provider to determine if MRIs are covered and how much will be covered by insurance. You may still encounter some out-of-pocket costs. But there are some health plans that will cover 100% of your MRI costs, depending on your employer. 

For example, the New York Health Benefits program offers several health plans that cover authorized MRIs at no charge. It is also important to check with your health plan and determine if an MRI requires a referral or if pre- or prior authorization is necessary.

What can you expect to pay out of pocket for an MRI?

Even with insurance, you may need to meet a deductible before the insurance puts money toward the cost of an MRI. Also, you may be responsible for other costs such as a copay (flat fee) or coinsurance (your percentage after insurance pays).

If you have concerns about costs, talk to your healthcare provider about your options. You may also be able to use your health savings account (HSA) or flexible savings account (FSA) to help reduce your out-of-pocket expenses.

Does Medicare cover MRIs?

Generally, Medicare Part B covers 80% of an authorized test, including MRIs. So, you may still have out-of-pocket expenses. These can include a copay, coinsurance, or a deductible.

However, some health insurance companies offer Medicare Advantage plans that pay 100% for all covered services, including MRIs.

Although Medicare may cover your MRI, you should be aware of the requirements before moving forward. For instance, MRIs must be medically necessary, ordered by a Medicare doctor, and performed at a facility that accepts Medicare.

If contrast is used, how does it affect the cost of an MRI?

Contrast is a special dye used to enhance the MRI image. Your physician may order an MRI with contrast to get a better picture of any abnormalities in your body. However, adding the dye can create an extra charge of around $110 to $310 for your MRI.

The bottom line

MRIs can be expensive. The total cost of an MRI will depend on many factors, such as health insurance, radiologist fee, and type of scan. Even with insurance, you may still have out-of-pocket costs such as deductibles, copays, or coinsurance.

With the average cost of an MRI ranging anywhere from $400 to $12,000 based on the body part, you may want to ask your healthcare provider about assistance programs. You can also opt for less expensive testing alternatives when appropriate.

References

ACRACreditation.org. (n.d.). Accredited Facility Search.

ASNR.org. (n.d.). Magnetic Resonance Imaging

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GoodRx Health has strict sourcing policies and relies on primary sources such as medical organizations, governmental agencies, academic institutions, and peer-reviewed scientific journals. Learn more about how we ensure our content is accurate, thorough, and unbiased by reading our editorial guidelines.

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