Feeling unwell, but not sure what’s wrong? A CT scan might be able to help a qualified healthcare professional diagnose your condition. Every year, more than 80 million CT scans are administered in the US alone.
Getting a CT scan requires you to visit a hospital or outpatient facility, which may make you wonder about the costs of a CT scan, especially if you don’t have insurance and have to pay for your CT scan out of pocket.
This page details the costs you can expect to be associated with your CT scan, both with and without insurance. By the time you’re done reading, you’ll have a much clearer picture of how much you’ll need to pay for your CT scan, along with how you can potentially reduce associated costs.
In the future, work with a trustworthy and transparent health insurance company that helps you understand healthcare costs upfront. With less time spent figuring out the specifics of your plan, you can get the care you need, faster.
Find in this article:
- What is a CT Scan?
- What Is the Difference Between MRI and CT Scans?
- Are CT Scans Ever Used in Place of MRIs?
- How Much Does a CT Scan Cost Without Insurance?
- How Much Does a CT Scan Cost With Insurance?
- How Do I Save Money on CT Scan Costs?
- How Long Does a CT Scan Take? What Should I Expect?
- Do I Need a Doctor’s Referral to Get a CT Scan?
What is a CT Scan?
A CT (computed tomography) scan is a special type of healthcare screening that makes use of X-ray and other computer technologies to give healthcare professionals an in-depth look at a particular part of your body.
CT scans are often used to assess the health of bones, muscles, and organs around your body. Sometimes, they’re used as a standalone procedure, whereas other times, they’re part of a more comprehensive health treatment plan.
When possible, X-rays are often used instead of CT scans, as they’re easier (and therefore cheaper) to administer. However, X-rays do not provide as much information as CT scans do, particularly with regards to details on internal organs and other internal bodily structures.
Overall, a CT scan is a very diverse test that is made use of for a variety of reasons, but the overarching purpose is usually to help healthcare professionals accurately diagnose a specific problem you’re having somewhere in your body.
What Is the Difference Between MRI and CT Scans?
Both CT and MRI scans are advanced types of scans that go into detail beyond what traditional X-rays can offer, but they differ in their purposes and the mechanisms behind how they function.
Like X-rays, CT scans use radiation to create a picture of the internal parts of your body. However, unlike X-rays, CT scans are far more detailed due to their 3D imaging capabilities.
CT scans are particularly popular for trauma-based ailments, such as blood clots and fractures. In the case of fractures, X-rays can sometimes be used to create an accurate scan, but a CT scan is necessary when an X-ray scan isn’t detailed enough.
CT scans are also helpful for organ-related injuries, where an X-ray is of little to no use in determining the extent or specifics of those types of injuries.
Unlike CT scans and X-rays, MRI scans do not use radiation. Instead, when a technician puts you into an MRI scanner, a strong magnet is used to create incredibly detailed pictures of various parts of your body. The magnet accomplishes this feat by reacting with the trillions of protons in your body.
MRIs are popular for sports injuries (sometimes used in conjunction with chiropractic therapy), problems with joints and nerves (such as inflammation and compression), and spinal injuries of all types.
Are CT Scans Ever Used in Place of MRIs?
Although the two scans are different in their underlying mechanisms and ideal uses, the two do have some overlap in what they can effectively scan for.
In a perfect world, an MRI would always be used when called for, but in practice, a few things result in CT scans sometimes being used in place of MRIs, even if an MRI is the ideal scan for the patient.
These reasons include:
- When a patient has some sort of metal implant in their body, such as a pacemaker (a device used to keep the patient’s heartbeat steady and regular). The strong magnets in MRIs can wreak havoc on these sensitive metal devices.
- When MRIs are unavailable. An MRI machine is a large, expensive machine that not every healthcare facility has access to. The equipment needed for CT scans is generally much more accessible.
- When time is of the essence. MRIs can take up to 90 minutes to carry out. If a healthcare professional determines your problem is highly urgent, they may recommend a CT scan over an MRI so that they can continue with other parts of your treatment more quickly.
How Much Does a CT Scan Cost Without Insurance?
How much does a brain CT scan cost without insurance? On average, a CT scan costs about $3,000, regardless of the specific part of your body that the healthcare professional focuses on.
However, this figure may not paint a completely clear picture. Although the average cost is around $3,000 without insurance, you could end up paying significantly more or less depending on a variety of factors.
Costs Associated With the Scan Itself Rarely Change
All of the tools and machinery that allow a CT scan to take place cost money, and as someone receiving a CT scan, you’ll be the one paying for those costs.
Therefore, all CT scans without insurance will cost at least a couple hundred dollars. When you need a highly specialized medical test, reducing these costs further without insurance is usually difficult if not impossible.
Professional and Overhead Costs Are Highly Variable
Aside from the costs associated with the scan, you also pay for help from qualified healthcare professionals and costs associated with the facility you receive your CT scan at.
These two costs are highly variable because they can differ greatly depending on where you’re located in the country. For example, a CT scan in a populated city in Texas may cost $3,000, whereas one in a smaller midwest city may run you under $2,000 due to the lower cost of living.
Costs can vary within a local area, too. To get the best price on your CT scan, be sure to call all of the medical facilities near you that can offer one.
In general, getting your CT scan done at a hospital will be more expensive than an outpatient facility. And, if you can find a facility that runs lots of CT scans for patients, that facility will usually be better equipped to offer a lower price.
How Much Does a CT Scan Cost With Insurance?
With insurance, your CT scan costs will usually be lower, but you’ll rarely pay $0 out of pocket, and you have the potential to receive less help with the bill than you might expect depending on the factors explained below.
Which Facilities Are Available in Your Health Insurance Network?
Many types of health insurance plans make use of an approved list of medical facilities and providers. If you venture outside of this network and do not meet your plan’s criteria for out-of-network coverage, you may not receive coverage for your CT scan.
Therefore, one of the primary factors in your CT scan cost, even with insurance, will be the facility where you receive your CT scan.
Have You Met Your Deductible?
Most health insurance plans require you to meet an annual deductible (fixed dollar amount) before insurance starts helping out with costs.
Therefore, if you have not met your annual deductible but need to get a CT scan, you may be on the hook for the majority or all of the cost.
If your deductible is less than the total cost of the CT scan (for example, your deductible is $1,000 and the CT scan costs $1,800), insurance will generally help only with the $800 payment past your deductible.
Gap health insurance is sometimes an attractive option for individuals with plans that have high deductibles.
What Are Your Coinsurance Rates?
Once your deductible is paid, it’s rare for health insurance to cover 100% of the bill. Most plans make use of a coinsurance rate, where you and your health insurance company are responsible for different percentages of the payment.
Many plans make use of a 80/20 coinsurance split, meaning the insurance company covers 80% and you are responsible for 20%.
Continuing with the previous example, if the coinsurance portion of the bill was $800, with an 80/20 coinsurance split, you would be responsible for $160 of the bill.
How Do I Save Money on CT Scan Costs?
Getting a CT scan is a rare instance where in some cases, it may make sense to forgo your health insurance plan and voluntarily pay for costs out of pocket.
The reasoning behind this approach boils down to your approved network of medical providers and facilities. In some cases, you will be forced to get your CT scan at a hospital if you are in a limited network of healthcare facilities and providers, such as under an HMO (health maintenance organization). A CT scan at a hospital may cost thousands of dollars.
If you have the option to visit an outpatient facility instead of the hospital, your bill may be hundreds of dollars rather than thousands of dollars. Of course, you will not receive any help from your insurance company if you intentionally go somewhere you will not receive coverage, but the savings can sometimes be so significant that it makes sense from a financial standpoint to do it alone.
How Long Does a CT Scan Take? What Should I Expect?
To start your CT scan, you’ll lay flat on a padded table.
The bed will move through a circular scanner. At this time, the healthcare professional administering your test will stress the importance of staying still so that the scan produces clear and high-quality images.
Once the healthcare professional confirms the photos are clear, the CT scan is complete. Overall, the scan takes between 10 and 30 minutes. You won’t have to do anything but lay on the table without moving.
Do I Need a Doctor’s Referral to Get a CT Scan?
In most cases, you do not need a doctor’s referral to get a CT scan. Many hospitals and outpatient facilities will allow you to schedule a CT scan without one.
With that being said, it usually makes sense to get a recommendation from your primary care physician before you go in for a CT scan. Although you may think you know for certain that a CT scan is required to assess your health problem, a different test might work just as well, or your doctor may recommend something other than a CT scan entirely.
Even if not technically required, certain types of health insurance plans will require you to get a doctor’s referral before you get a CT scan if you wish to receive coverage on the costs associated with the CT scan.
How much does a CT scan cost without insurance? The answer is highly variable depending on where you live and which facility you choose to receive your scan at, but in general, you will end up paying between a couple hundred and a couple thousand dollars to get a CT scan without insurance, regardless of what you’re suffering from.
To get the best price, be sure to ask different facilities how much they charge for a CT scan. If you’re limited to only hospitals under your health insurance plan, it may be worth foregoing insurance coverage so that you can get your scan done at a significantly cheaper outpatient facility.
When it comes to your health, every second counts. Partner with a trustworthy and transparent health insurance company during the next Open Enrollment Period to stay in the know regarding the specifics of your health insurance plan and your coverage.