Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is a noninvasive, painless test that uses a large magnet and radio waves to create detailed pictures of the inside of your body. Abdominal MRIs are used to diagnose and monitor illness or injuries in your belly that are not detectable through a physical examination. You only need an MRI if a doctor (such as an emergency medicine doctor or internist) recommends it.
On average, an abdominal MRI costs $1,751 at a hospital or $680 at a freestanding imaging center. Keep in mind—this is an estimate for what you and your health insurance company might pay together (combined) for the procedure, not the amount you’ll pay out-of-pocket.
Your MRI may be more or less expensive, depending on what kind of image you need and where you get it done. Read on to learn more about what an abdominal MRI is and what affects the overall cost.
When do you need an abdominal MRI?
Abdominal MRIs are a diagnostic tool, so they’re used for a variety of reasons. Doctors often order abdominal MRIs to identify the cause of:
- Abdominal pain or swelling
- Abnormal blood test results
- Masses in the abdominal organs
Abdominal MRIs are also used to look at your blood vessels and blood flow, as well as lymph nodes. In general, you need a referral from a doctor to get an abdominal MRI. If you’re having abdominal pain, make an appointment to see your doctor.
Where can you get an abdominal MRI?
You can get an MRI at two different types of facilities: a hospital imaging center or a freestanding imaging center. Hospital imaging centers are often located within the hospital building itself (or in the same area). Freestanding imaging centers are not affiliated with a hospital network, and they usually operate only during regular business hours.
Why is there a price difference between hospitals and freestanding imaging centers?
You’re probably wondering why an abdominal MRI costs so much more at a hospital than a freestanding imaging center. This is generally true for other types of MRIs and X-rays, too—hospital imaging tends to be more expensive.
There are a number of reasons for this, including:
Hospitals have higher overhead costs, since they’re open 24/7, employ a larger staff, and offer more healthcare services (including emergency care).
Hospitals bill differently. They often include revenue codes on their bills, which takes into account the higher operating cost of the hospital itself.
The imaging equipment used may be different. MRI and X-ray machines vary in quality, cost to purchase, and cost to maintain.
If your abdominal MRI is not an emergency and you can choose where to go, Amino’s MRI search can show you prices in your area. But cheaper isn’t always better, so make sure to ask your doctor why they’re referring you to a specific facility—they may have valuable insight into the quality of the facility, or the expertise of the radiologists who work there.
Will health insurance cover your abdominal MRI?
Most insurers will cover your MRI as long as it’s medically necessary. In that case, you should only be on the hook for your deductible, co-insurance, and co-pay.
If you don’t have insurance, you may have to pay out-of-pocket. Below are some tips to get the most for your money.
Shopping for an abdominal MRI
Even if your insurance does cover some or most of your MRI, you’ll likely still pay some of the cost out-of-pocket. To make sure you’re getting the most (and best) care for your money:
Ask your insurance company about your costs ahead of time, like your co-insurance, co-pay, and deductible, so you know what to expect.
Utilize your Health Savings Account (HSA), Flexible Spending Account (FSA), or Health Reimbursement Account (HRA) to cover out-of-pocket expenses.
If it’s not an emergency, use Amino to compare different imaging centers in your area. Freestanding imaging centers often have lower prices than hospitals, so make sure to ask your doctor why they’re referring you to a specific facility.
Ask the imaging center about price. This is especially important if you don’t have insurance and are paying for your MRI yourself. Some centers will offer a discount if they know you’re shouldering the cost on your own.
Check your bill to make sure you’ve been charged for the correct procedure.
If you’re claustrophobic, you may need a mild sedative to stay calm during the procedure. It can cost hundreds of dollars, so make sure to include that in your budget, too.