Having an MRI of the brain can be useful in assessing problems like seizures, migraines, dizziness, blurry vision, or chronic diseases of the nervous system. If you are recommended to undergo this procedure, you’ll want to know how much a brain MRI costs.
The Average Cost of Brain MRI
The average cost of brain MRI can vary widely, ranging from as low as $250 to as high as $12,000, depending on the manner of payment, the choice of facility, and the location.
Below are the typical expenditures based on whether or not you have insurance, your coverage, and your choice of facility.
- For cash-paying patients, you can expect to pay $250 to $400 if you are to get a brain MRI from a clinic and $500 to $2,000 from hospitals.
- For insured patients with a 25% copay, you will be paying around $300 to $800 for clinics and $700 to $2,000 for hospitals.
- For high-deductible patients, prepare to spend around $1,200 to $2,400 for clinics and $2,000 to as much as $12,000 for hospitals.
What Is Included In The Service?
If you are working on a budget, you’ll be interested in knowing what will be included in the procedure so you can anticipate any additional expenditures that might come along the way.
First, the use of the MRI machine will be the first order of business. The cost of this scanning machine is more than $1 million, so obviously, the facility will need to cover the depreciation of the machine every time they use it on patients.
Second, the scanner will be operated by either a radiologist or medical staff, so their services will also be charged on the cost.
Third, the cost of interpreting the imaging from the scans will be charged based on the expertise of the doctor performing this.
Fourth, the cost of the gadolinium-contrast agent and mild sedation will be included as well, if necessary in the procedure. Please note, though that some facilities may charge these as extra costs, so you need to ask ahead just to be sure.
Lastly, administrative costs are also included, which are for the fact that clinics operate as businesses and need staff to process papers, coordinate with patients, doctors, insurance companies, etc., and do all sorts of office work.
Factors Affecting Cost of Brain MRI
Whatever you have to pay for your MRI will be determined by the following factors:
- The facility – some facilities can be more expensive or otherwise compared to others and your choice of whether to go to smaller clinics or laboratories or large hospitals will be a major factor for the price you are going to pay.
- The doctor – the MRI can either be operated by a radiologist (a certified doctor who performs and interprets various imaging tests) or a radiology technologist. The cost will also be dependent on the expertise of the doctor performing either the interpretation alone or both the imaging of the MRI and the interpretation.
- Insurance – whether you have insurance or you pay entirely out of pocket will be a big contributing factor in how much you will be spending. But that’s not the end of the story yet. If you have insurance coverage, the head MRI price will also depend on your coinsurance, copay, and deductibles.
- Location – just like any other product or service, you will be facing the same dilemma for the costs if you live in cities with a high cost of living and cost of doing business.
- Additional service – as previously mentioned, contrast agents and mild sedatives can be complimentary, which means you most often don’t have to pay for them. However, some facilities may charge them separately which can greatly affect your total price of brain MRI.
What Exactly is MRI?
Magnetic Resonance Imaging, or MRI, is a machine that uses magnets and radio waves to produce black and white images of bones and organs to detect a variety of conditions in the human body. It looks like an open tunnel, and patients are placed on a table that slides into the machine.
However, MRIs are still limited in terms of detecting conditions like mental illness. But they come in handy when visualizing brain changes in certain disorders of the mind. In fact, MRI picks up subtle changes in brain activity.
It is more sensitive than CT scans and can pick up very small cysts or tumors in areas where other imaging machines like X-rays, CT scans, or ultrasound can’t detect them.
Some of the brain conditions it can detect are the following:
- arterial occlusions
- brain tumors
- causes of epilepsy
- Cushing’s disease
- developmental anomalies
- disorders of the eye and inner ear
- disorders of the pituitary gland
- hemorrhage in selected trauma patients
- multiple sclerosis
- venous thrombosis
How To Save On Costs
If you think you will be having a hard time budgeting for your brain MRI, you can consider some of the things you could do to save on cost. Some of these are the following:
- Paying outright cash can be an advantage on its own since facilities tend to give enormous discounts to those who will be paying instead of having to go through the rigid process of insurance coverage. In fact, for those who don’t have or don’t want to use their insurance, many hospitals offer 15% to 50% discounts if you pay in cash or credit within 60 days.
- Health Savings Account (HSA), Health Reimbursement Account (HRA), and Flexible Spending Account (FSA) are some of the tax-advantaged accounts you can explore to know which works best for your out-of-pocket cost of brain MRI.
- You can ask for possible flexible payment schemes as some facilities are more than willing to assist you with financial aid in the form of interest-free payment plans. The hospitals’ offer of financial assistance depends on your family’s income.
- With having insurance, you just don’t go to any clinics or hospitals feeling that your insurance has got you covered simply because you got them. You also need to consider whether a particular facility is included in the in-network of your insurance because it makes a whole lot of difference in cost if you go to those outside of your insurance network.
- Another option is for you to go to free-standing imaging centers rather than hospitals. This is understandable since hospitals are bigger businesses that have more overhead costs to cover. Also, because of the fact that imaging centers specialize in imaging alone, they tend to do more MRIs than elsewhere, making the cost recovery spread over more patients, thereby reducing the cost per patient.