When you are dealing with the aftermath of a car accident, the last thing you want to be worried about is the cost of your medical expenses. Even if your car insurance policy covers some of the costs, it may be a reimbursement that takes place after the fact, while you need care immediately. Diagnostic scans like MRIs are used soon after a crash to detect car accident injuries and other concerns that need to be addressed and should not be put off due to the expense. While the exact bill will vary, we’ve compiled some information to help you understand what to expect.
What Is an MRI?
An MRI, which stands for magnetic resonance imaging, is a type of scan that allows doctors to see complex structures inside of the human body. The technology uses a combination of magnets and radiofrequency to produce three-dimensional anatomical images that aid in the detection, diagnosis, and monitoring of various illnesses and injuries.
MRIs work by employing powerful magnets that produce a magnetic field strong enough to force the body’s protons to align with it. A radiofrequency current is then pulsed through the patient, stimulating the protons to spin out of equilibrium and strain against the magnetic field. When the radiofrequency is shut off, MRI sensors can detect the energy released by the protons’ realignment and create images.
The machines used to perform these MRIs are extremely large and complex, and they usually take up an entire room. They will be operated by a professional technician, while results may be read by a radiologist or another specialist. Usually, the machine is the only necessary equipment, though some patients require additional medication like a contrast dye or sedatives. The cost of these machines and the expertise needed to use them is why MRIs may be expensive in some cases.
Factors in the Cost of an MRI
Like all health services, the cost of an MRI can vary greatly between two people and two procedures based on a range of factors.
Where you receive an MRI can be one factor in the cost. Inpatient facilities, such as hospitals, tend to have more expensive MRIs because of the expense associated with maintaining supplies and machines or services to accommodate extended stays. Outpatient facilities, especially ones with a dedicated set of MRI and diagnostic imaging services, are usually less expensive. Of course, in an emergency situation, you may not have a choice in this matter.
Most MRIs will be covered by a health insurance provider if one is in place as they are considered a diagnostic test. As long as your provider deems the scan medically necessary, you can usually expect to have this covered. All of your typical deductibles, copays, and coinsurance will apply in these cases.
If you don’t have insurance, the expense of an MRI could be much higher. Be sure to ask your facility about the costs for direct payment as opposed to what they charge an insurance company.
One of the biggest factors involved in pricing an MRI will be the geographic location where you have the scan done. The region, city, and state where you live can determine the number of facilities you have to choose from. For example, a more rural location may have fewer MRI machines available, increasing costs, while a city may have more machines and lower costs. However, the cost of living can also impact this.
Type of MRI
While the underlying technology is the same, not every MRI scan is the same cost. As a general rule, the larger the part of the body being scanned, the more expensive the MRI may be. For example, an MRI of the spine will take longer and likely cost more than an MRI of the foot.
There are also different types of MRI machines that can be used. In most cases, you will use the traditional MRI machine that looks like a large metal tunnel, but patients who cannot fit in these or suffer from claustrophobia may use an open MRI machine. There are also machines that allow a patient to be upright during the procedure. Because these machines are less common, they may cost more.
Most prices quoted for an MRI assume that contrast dye is not used. This dye is injected into the body via an IV in order to enhance the images and provide a clearer picture to doctors. While it can be helpful, this is only necessary in about 5 to 10 percent of cases. The use of contrast can increase prices.
Some patients will also require the use of sedatives to calm anxiety about being in the MRI machine or who will struggle to be still. An additional fee can accompany the sedative.
Getting the Best MRI Price
The general range of MRI prices can be anywhere from $400 to $3500, depending on the factors listed above. While you will not be able to control all of these factors, there are ways to control the costs.
If at all possible, it is best to seek an outpatient facility or doctor’s office to have your MRI performed and avoid the hospital. If you are taken to the emergency room following an accident, an MRI may be inevitable, but if you are seeking care independently, choosing another option is best.
Be sure to look at your insurance coverage and take advantage of any assistance that you can, including using an FSA or HSA. If you are not insured, be sure to speak with the facility about financial assistance and if they charge a lower amount for direct billing.
At AICA Snellville, our dedicated office staff will work with you to ensure you can afford the diagnostic imaging you need. Don’t hesitate to reach out with questions about pricing, coverage, and how we can help you achieve your goals for recovery. AICA Snellville offers MRIs in addition to a range of other health services, allowing you to go through us for all your needs