What’s an MRI Cost? Good Luck Getting an Answer
Presented by Bobbie Blueblood
While searching for examples of people wishing good luck to someone or for something to occur I found this article on the costs of getting an MRI test. As I read it I remembered seeing something very similar on TV recently where a reporter tried to find out the cost of various medical procedures. On that video piece it was the same as mentioned in this article. Basically the prices varied by a great amount and in many cases they were given the runaround and never got an answer as to what the price was.
In the article I just read the same story occurs. It was very difficult to get a price and prices varied by a very wide margin. In the article by Martha Bebinger article on NBC’s website.
So when I had a series of migraines over the summer, I decided this was an opportunity to be an engaged, savvy patient.
First decision: whether to even get the doctor-recommended MRI. It’s a very expensive test, and I thought maybe the headaches would just disappear.
But I followed my doctor’s advice, called Newton-Wellesley Hospital and asked for the price of the test. My doctor didn’t know, I got transferred to radiology, I got transferred to billing. Billing said they would call me back. They didn’t. I couldn’t even get a ballpark estimate.
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Now, I have insurance with no deductible, so wherever I went was only going to cost me a $25 copayment. (Apologies to all of you with high-deductible or tiered plans out there.)
When I couldn’t get through to Newton-Wellesley, I tried Mass General, which is what we usually hear is the most expensive and best hospital in the country to go to. They were charging $5,315. That’s for an uninsured patient. For one MRI.
But they couldn’t tell me what my rate was going to be as an insured patient. They said they didn’t have that information. So I hit another wall with another hospital.
Then I tried an independent lab called Shields. It’s a chain that specializes in MRIs and other radiology tests. Shields said it would have charged between $2,000 and $3,600 for this test (the higher cost is for an MRI with an injectable dye to show contrast). But that’s not what they would bill my HMO Blue Cross plan for my MRI: $600 for the MRI without the contrast dye, and $1,200 for the MRI with the dye is its negotiated rate with my health plan.
Eventually, I got the test at Newton-Wellesley. I thought the price would be somewhere between Mass General and Shields, and I thought there was some value in following my doctor’s recommendation. When I got the bill from Newton-Wellesley I was stunned. It was for $7,468. It turns out this is the price Newton-Wellesley charges someone who is uninsured. If you include the charge for reading the test, the total is almost $8,000, even higher than Mass General. I thought that since Newton-Wellsley knows I’m a Blue Cross member, they’d send me the Blue Cross rate — what Blue Cross was going to pay for the test. They didn’t.
Click the above link to read the whole article to get advice on what to do to find out costs for this or other medical procedures.
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