If you have a medical procedure coming up, do you feel like you’re limited to the doctors in your area and bound to pay whatever they charge? Think again. You can shop around.
Let’s take a look at how one woman did just that—and saved over $1,600 on the cost of an MRI in the process.
When Kelly Slater, a runner, injured her knee, she just knew it was a torn meniscus. Her doctor suspected the same and ordered an MRI to verify.
Her insurance company said she needed to wait six weeks to get the MRI—and even worse, it looked like it was going to be expensive.
Limited Access To Healthcare Options
Kelly lives in lower Michigan in a rural area, so her hospital choices were limited. The local MRI option was going to cost around $2,000—$1,083 more than the national average of $917!
Because she had time—and at the insistence of a friend who just happened to write a book on being a consumer of healthcare —she opted to shop around.
“It never occurred to me to shop around before then,” Kelly said. “It’s kind of a one-pony show up here. You go to the place that’s available.”
Kelly said she considered paying cash to get a lower rate, but because she knew she’d need surgery and thus meet her deductible for the year, it was more cost-effective to find the cheapest route through her health insurance.
How To Find The Best MRI Cost
Kelly followed a step by step approach to research and shop for the best, most affordable care. Here’s how to do what Kelly did:
- Call the physician and ask for the procedure code. Note that there can be multiple codes for each type of procedure. For an MRI, for example, there are different codes for “with contrast” and “without contrast.” Be sure your doctor provides you with the code for the precise procedure you’re getting.
- Call different facilities you’d like to price shop, ask for their facility code (or ICD10), and ask the medical billing department for their price based on the procedure code from your physician. See our list of healthcare transparency sites for resources to help you find and compare providers.
- Call the insurance company and give them the information: the procedure code, the facility code, and the quoted price—and have your insurance company confirm what you’ll owe.
- Make the decision that is most in line with what you want and need for your healthcare—and your bank account. You should also remember that most outpatient facilities offer payment programs, which can be a great fall back option.
Kelly’s Shopping Success Story
Ultimately, by using a simple online search to find facilities and then calling around to get the lowest price, Kelly found a facility that would do the MRI through her existing insurance for a price of $341—a savings of over $1,600. She scheduled the test for the exact day her six-week waiting period was up.
“Through this experience, I learned to shop around because the medical care that’s available to you isn’t always the cheapest. It pays to look for some competition,” Kelly said.
It’s important to note that the MRI Kelly received—the one that was $1,600 cheaper at another location—was a 2D MRI, not a 3D MRI. Both of these types of MRIs can generally be used to diagnose a meniscal tear with similar accuracy.
IMPORTANT NOTE: It’s critical to check with your doctor to see what kind of MRI you need in your situation, rather than go with the one that’s most convenient or cheapest.
“Here [at the local facility] I would’ve been paying for a fancier machine that I didn’t really need. My doctor didn’t care if the MRI was 2D or 3D. It definitely makes sense to do your research .”
Ultimately, the MRI confirmed what Kelly and her doctor had suspected, and she got the care she needed for her injured knee. She reports she is very glad to be back up and running!