From broken bones to dental procedures, x-rays are used in many ways to diagnose and treat people. the cost of an x-ray will vary by location and facility.
Other factors that influence the cost are what type of insurance you have, whether you pay cash (pay out of pocket), the location of the lesion that needs to be x-rayed, and how many views need to be taken.
Before getting your X-ray done, it’s important to research which center will have the best price for you.
Outpatient clinics and imaging centers are likely to have the most affordable price, followed by urgent care. emergency rooms and hospitals will probably be the most expensive.
Patients who pay cash can expect to pay between $45 and $250 per X-ray in an outpatient clinic.
In this article, we’ll talk about what an X-ray is, the cost of X-rays with or without insurance, and the cost of X-rays of different locations/parts of your body.
We’ll also talk about the different facilities and locations to get x-rays, factors that influence cost, how you can avoid high costs, and what’s the no-surprise act.
what is an x-ray?
X-rays, also called radiographs, are a form of electromagnetic radiation, similar to visible light, except they have higher energy and can pass through the body.
These create an image of the inside of your body using different shades of black and white.
The different shades of the image are due to the amount of radiation absorbed by different tissues.
For example, bones absorb more x-rays, so they appear whiter than other tissues against the black background of an x-ray.
Because x-rays travel more easily through fat and muscle and air-filled spaces like the lungs, these structures will appear darker in shades of gray.
X-rays can be used to diagnose anything from broken bones, pneumonia, bowel obstruction, tooth decay, and much more.
Depending on the type of x-ray, the technician may ask you to change into a medical gown.
You will then be given a lead apron to protect certain parts of your body that you want to protect from radiation exposure.
X-rays are usually taken quickly.
Usually more than one angle is needed so that the area can be seen from different vantage points.
The images are then sent to a radiologist who interprets the x-ray and writes a report for the doctor who ordered the x-ray.
cost of an x-ray
The cost of an X-ray varies widely depending on the type of insurance you have, your deductible, whether you pay out-of-pocket, what type of X-ray you need, and even what location or facility you use.
X-rays are usually covered by insurance.
If you have a high deductible and haven’t met it, you’ll have to pay out of pocket for the X-ray until you meet your deductible, which could be anywhere from $100 to $1,000.
If you have met your deductible, you should check with your insurance plan to see what your copay and coinsurance will be.
ask your doctor for procedure and diagnosis codes before calling your insurance.
Give those codes to your insurance company, tell them the names of your local hospital, urgent care center, and freestanding radiology/imaging center, and ask what the price would be for each location.
There are times when insurance denies an x-ray. this can be for a variety of reasons, sometimes as simple as clearing a diagnostic code.
however, if your insurance doesn’t cover the x-ray, you can still choose to get it by paying cash (paying out of pocket).
Paying out of pocket is quick, as you don’t have to wait for insurance processing or approval, but it will be important to contact the imaging facility to ask what the cash price would be.
If you don’t have insurance, an x-ray will cost between $100 and $1,000. the average cost of x-ray is around $260-$460.
Price varies depending on the provider, where the x-ray is done, the part of the body that needs the x-ray, and how many views are to be taken.
for example, without insurance, a 2-view chest x-ray in texas at a large hospital system was quoted at $544. with insurance, it was $112.
As of January 2021, hospitals are now required to display prices for their services online.
This gives you a chance to look around for the best deal.
A chest x-ray is when a picture is taken of the chest, lungs, heart, ribs, large arteries, and diaphragm. Two images are usually taken while you are standing in front of the x-ray machine.
The radiographers will ask you to hold your breath for a few seconds while they take the picture. the national average cost of a chest x-ray is about $420.
There are 3 areas of the spine that we can get an x-ray for: the cervical spine, the thoracic spine, and the lumbar spine. often in the lower back, a lumbosacral x-ray is taken, including the sacrum.
A cervical spine series is used to evaluate all 7 vertebrae in the neck area.
This series is vital in the evaluation of trauma and may be useful in other situations, such as the evaluation of degenerative changes.
A chest x-ray takes a picture of all 12 vertebrae in the middle column. The images are taken while you are lying on the x-ray table in different positions.
The machine will move over your thoracic spine area and the technician will ask you to hold your breath for a few seconds while the image is taken.
Typically, two or three views will be needed. it is often used to assess pain in the upper to mid-back areas.
A lumbosacral x-ray is a picture of the small vertebrae in the lower part of the spine. it also includes the area that connects the spine to the pelvis.
To obtain the images, you will be asked to lie on the x-ray table in different positions as the machine moves over the area.
The technician will ask you to hold your breath for a few seconds while the images are taken. typically requires three to five images to be taken.
The national average cost for a spinal exam is $320.
Dental x-rays are pictures of the teeth and mouth. The technician will ask you to bite down on an eyelash that will be placed in your mouth.
Various angles and locations of the tab are typically required to image all teeth.
Dental X-rays can cost between $20 and $250, depending on the type of images your dentist requires.
A foot x-ray is usually a quick and easy process.
You will be asked to lie still on the x-ray table, and the technician will usually take three images. the national average price is $290.
The cost of an x-ray will vary by facility. you may have a knee jerk reaction to rush to the hospital.
however, that’s usually the most expensive facility to get an x-ray.
Of course, the hospital may be the best place for general care and treatment in emergency situations.
If you are not in an emergency situation, an outpatient clinic with same-day availability or urgent care would be the most cost-effective option.
of course, if you have suffered a major injury or accident and need an evaluation by a surgeon, going to the emergency room is recommended in this situation as
some outpatient clinics offer radiology services.
the united states department of health and human services has a locator to help you find clinics that provide a discounted rate based on your income.
This is a great tool for locating the nearest affordable clinic, and you can call to make an appointment to see if they offer the services you’re looking for.
factors influencing cost
There are a few variables that determine the cost of your x-ray.
- Insurance status: Not all insurance plans will cover x-rays. If you haven’t met your deductible yet, you may be responsible for paying for the service. If your deductible has been met, the cost of the visit will depend on your insurance copay and how much coinsurance you pay. you can always call your insurance to find out.
- Additional tests: Sometimes additional tests or treatments are needed depending on the type of injury you have. These may be blood tests, stitches, or other diagnostic tests.
- Medications: Depending on your level of pain, you may need medication to make you more comfortable or possibly antibiotics if an infection could be a problem.
- Location: The location you go to largely controls how much you spend on an X-ray. choosing an outpatient clinic or urgent care instead of an emergency room will be more cost-effective. however, if the situation is emergent, be sure to go to the hospital emergency room.
- question the purpose of your x-ray: Make sure you know the purpose of the x-ray and that your doctor has approved the order.
- shop and compare prices: If your situation is not an emergency, call different places and get prices for x-rays.
how to avoid high costs
There are a few different ways to avoid the high costs when you need to get an X-ray.
no surprise act
The No Surprises Act establishes federal protections to help protect you against surprise out-of-network medical bills received during emergency services at an out-of-network emergency visit or from an out-of-network doctor seen in a hospital. network hospital without notice.
The law prohibits providers from billing you more than you normally would for in-network services.
If you receive what you think is a surprise bill, there are protections and ways to seek help.
how health can help
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