An artistic representation of healthcare and financial planning themes, featuring an MRI machine and symbols representing various payment methods without insurance

Paying for an MRI Without Insurance: A Complete Guide

Navigating the healthcare system and understanding the financial aspects of medical procedures can be daunting, especially when it comes to managing the costs of diagnostic tests like MRIs without insurance. This comprehensive guide aims to demystify the process and provide you with the knowledge to make informed decisions when paying for an MRI out of pocket.

Scenarios for Opting Out of Insurance for an MRI

There are several situations where you might choose not to use insurance for an MRI:

  • High Deductibles: If your insurance plan has a high deductible that you’re unlikely to meet, paying out of pocket might be more cost-effective.
  • Speed of Service: Insurance pre-authorization can delay your MRI. Paying directly may allow for faster scheduling.
  • Privacy Concerns: Some may prefer not to have their insurance company informed about their medical procedures.
  • Negotiated Cash Prices: Many facilities offer significant discounts for cash payments compared to what they charge insurance companies.

Understanding MRI Technology

  • How Do MRIs Work?: MRI, or Magnetic Resonance Imaging, uses powerful magnets and radio waves to create detailed images of the inside of the body. Unlike X-rays or CT scans, MRIs do not use ionizing radiation, which means there is no exposure to radiation.

Cost of MRI Without Insurance and Finding MRI Providers Without Insurance

  • Typical Costs: The cost of an MRI without insurance can range widely from $400 to $3,500, depending on the type of scan and the facility. It’s essential to shop around and compare prices. 
  • Expected Healthcare enables anyone to search for imaging centers near them and see and browse their non-insurance prices. 

Need an imaging study?

Expected Healthcare Partners offer the lowest non-insurance prices for medical imaging studies

Physician Orders for an MRI

  • Generally, most imaging centers will require a physician’s order even if you choose to not pay with insurance. If you need a physician’s order for an MRI, you can use one of our partners to receive an order via a telehealth or in-person visit. 
  • However, if you would still like to receive an MRI without a physician’s order, there are a large number of imaging centers that will do this for you. You will just need to pay the cash or non-insurance price. 

Using an HSA for MRI Payments

  • HSA Usage: If you have a Health Savings Account (HSA), you can use it to pay for the MRI, even if you’re not billing the cost to insurance. HSAs are designed to pay for qualified medical expenses, including diagnostic tests.

Applying Out-of-Pocket MRI Costs to Insurance Deductibles

  • Insurance Deductibles: Paying for an MRI without using insurance does not usually count towards your deductible. However, some insurance companies may allow you to submit the expense for credit towards your deductible. You will need to submit the itemized receipt from the imaging center and likely also the physician’s order for the study. You should verify this with your insurance provider.

Ensuring Your Doctor Receives the MRI Results

  • Expected Healthcare makes it easy for your doctor to receive your MRI results. If you book your MRI appointment online through Expected and give us the proper consent, we can request that your results be sent directly to your ordering physician after the study.

If you do not use Expected Healthcare to schedule your MRI appointment, then there are a few other, more manual ways you can get your MRI results to your ordering physician.

  • Communication with the Provider: When scheduling the MRI, inform the imaging center that your physician will need access to the scans and reports. They can often send these directly to your doctor’s office.
  • Personal Copies: You can request a copy of the MRI images and report, typically on a CD or via a secure patient portal, which you can then take to your doctor.

Selecting an Imaging Center Without Insurance

When choosing an imaging center for an MRI without insurance, consider the following:

  • Accreditation: Look for centers accredited by the American College of Radiology, as this indicates adherence to safety and quality standards.
  • Radiologist Expertise: Ensure that the imaging center has radiologists who specialize in reading the type of MRI you need.
  • Equipment Quality: The quality of MRI machines varies. Newer, high-field strength magnets offer clearer images and shorter scan times.
  • Total Cost: Obtain a comprehensive quote that includes all potential fees, such as the radiologist’s reading fee, to avoid surprise charges.
  • Patient Reviews: Research patient reviews for insights into the experiences of others who have used the center.
  • Payment Plans: Ask if the center offers payment plans or discounts for prompt payment, which can make the cost more manageable.


Paying for an MRI without insurance can be a financially sound decision under certain circumstances. By understanding how MRIs work, knowing where to find services, and considering the use of an HSA or applying costs to deductibles, you can take control of your healthcare expenses. Remember to communicate clearly with both the imaging center and your doctor to ensure that your MRI results are utilized effectively in your care. Always perform due diligence when selecting an imaging center, considering factors such as accreditation, equipment quality, and overall cost to ensure you receive quality care at a reasonable price.