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How much does an MRI without insurance cost? • Insurance Blog by Chris ™



I started Insurance Blog by Chris ™ because I have a passion for insurance. Here on the blog, our job is to educate and inform people about the best insurance for them. Since then, we have grown into national brands with a large team of researchers who help people understand all forms of insurance.

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Written by

Chris Huntley

Founder of Huntley Wealth & Insurance Services

Chris Huntley

Rachael Brennan has been working in the insurance industry since 2006 when she began working as a licensed insurance representative for 21st Century Insurance, during which time she received her Property and Casualty license in all 50 states. After several years, she expanded her insurance expertise and also received her license in health and AD&D insurance. She has worked for small health insurance companies …

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Reviewed by


Rachael Brennan

Licensed insurance agent

Rachael Brennan

UPDATED: March 28, 2022

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Here’s Scoop

  • MRI stands for magnetic resonance imaging and provides high-quality scans of bones, organs and tissue
  • An MRI can cost thousands of dollars without health insurance
  • There are ways to get the best price for an MRI

People get sick. It is a common fact of life; there is no way around it. And when you are sick, you usually go to the doctor. However, if you do not have health insurance, the cost of medical bills can be extremely high. Whether it is a doctor’s visit, an emergency visit or diagnostic imaging, the price can be high. If your doctor orders an MRI, you can look at hundreds to thousands of dollars depending on the test. But what exactly is an MRI, and can you get an affordable scan without insurance?

What is an MRI?

MRI stands for magnetic resonance imaging and is a medical imaging technique. It uses magnetic fields and radio waves generated from a computer to make detailed images of soft tissues and organs in the body. It produces two- and three-dimensional images by interfering with the hydrogen protons in a person’s body, illuminating them when they fall back into place. MRI does not emit radiation.

Your doctor may refer you for a diagnostic MRI for several reasons, including detecting injuries, infections, tumors, abnormalities and many other medical conditions. MRI is more accurate than any other type of medical imaging and provides a more detailed look at the body’s soft tissues. They also allow doctors to find small abnormalities that may not be visible through other types of diagnostic imaging.

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Types of MRI

There are several different ways that MRI can be performed. The first difference is whether the MRI will be done with or without contrast. If the doctor orders a contrast MRI, the patient will be injected with a gadolinium-based dye before entering the MRI machine. An MRI with contrast is usually ordered to see the blood flow, inflammation, tumors or abnormalities in better detail. The type of MRI device can also vary depending on what you are being tested for.

The most common parts of the body for an MRI include:

  • Head: MRI of the head is done to detect neurological conditions in the brain and nerve tissues. They can diagnose aneurysm, eye and inner ear, stroke, tumors and brain damage.
  • Pelvis: Helps your doctor see pictures of the area between your hips. This includes reproductive organs, lymph nodes and the bladder.
  • Spinal: If you need an MRI of your spine, your doctor may try to detect spinal cord injuries, multiple sclerosis or tumors.
  • Cardiac: MRI of the heart can diagnose thickening of the heart walls, damage from heart attacks or heart disease, structural problems with the aorta and blockages.

There are two different types of MRI machines:

  • Open MRIs: This type of MRI provides more movement, so X-ray technicians can move around the patient or parts of their body during the procedure. Open MRI scans tend to take longer, but they sound much smaller and are good for patients who are claustrophobic.
  • Closed MRI: These are more common than open MRIs and provide higher quality images. In a closed MRI, the patient lies down in a tubular scanner and must remain completely still. Although the tube is large enough that the patient does not touch the sides, it can be very loud and some – especially those suffering from claustrophobia – may find it uncomfortable.

How long does an MRI take?

Most MRIs take about 15 to 90 minutes to complete. In some cases, the length of an MRI may be shorter or longer. Someone who gets an MRI with contrast usually takes longer than someone who gets an MRI without contrast. The body part that the machine scans will also take into account how long it takes, as well as the number of images needed for analysis. In addition, people with claustrophobia or small children may need sedation to stay still enough for the machine to take clear pictures.

How much does an MRI machine cost?

MRI devices are incredibly expensive, so the cost of getting one will reflect that. In the lower end of the spectrum, an MRI machine can cost as little as $ 150,000. Still, on average, they typically run from $ 1 million to $ 3 million for just one machine. And that does not include the cost of electricity, maintenance and more.

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How much does an MRI without insurance cost?

The cost of an MRI will depend on many things, including the body part, the condition in which the scan is done and the facility that performs the scan. The average cost of an uninsured MRI can range from $ 1,000 to $ 5,000. Contrast MRI will also include bills for the dye used and IV placement. If you need sedation, the cost can be even higher.

Here are the average MRI prices for specific body parts:

Body part Average cost
Brain $ 1,600-8,400
Neck $ 500- $ 11,800
Breast $ 500- $ 7,900
Breast $ 500- $ 10,300
Abdomen $ 1,600-7,600
Pelvis $ 500- $ 7,900
Upper extremities $ 1,050-7,000
Lower extremity $ 975- $ 6,300
Heart $ 430- $ 6,500
Bone 410-2 100 USD

How much does an MRI with insurance cost?

If you have health insurance, it usually covers an MRI if it has been ordered by your doctor. If you have not reached your deductible, you may have to pay between $ 500- $ 1,000 out of pocket, which is still much cheaper than if you were to get an MRI without insurance. But if you have reached your deductible, you only need to pay the deductible.

How can I get a cheaper MRI?

Even if you can not get an MRI for free, it is possible to find lower MRI costs. There are several ways to get a cheaper MRI. These include:

  • Do not do an MRI at the hospital: Emergency rooms are usually the most expensive places to do an MRI. They can be double, or even triple, the amount you would pay elsewhere. If you can help it, do not go to the emergency room for an MRI.
  • Choose a state where MRI is cheaper: Like most things, the cost of an MRI will vary depending on where you live. If a neighboring state offers a cheaper MRI, it may be worth it to travel to get your scan.
  • Go to an independent facility: Another way to save on an MRI is to go to an independent imaging facility. They are cheaper than hospitals, and they may be able to offer you a discount or payment plan if you can not afford the cost at once.

The cost of an MRI can seem daunting, especially if you do not have insurance, so it is important to know how you can get the best price to afford life-saving care.


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