How much should an x-ray cost?
In the United States, the cost of an x-ray depends on many things. These include (but aren’t limited to) your location, whether you have health insurance, and which part of your body is being examined. And, to make things even more complicated, your x-ray cost isn’t always the same as the price you end up paying.
Here, we’ll break down what affects the cost of your x-ray and — more importantly — what steps you can take to make sure you’re getting a fair price.
What is an x-ray?
An x-ray is a diagnostic imaging test that creates images of your bones and soft tissues. It can be used to diagnose and evaluate a wide range of conditions, such as bone fractures and infections, lung and heart conditions, and certain types of cancer.
X-rays are noninvasive and can be performed at hospitals and outpatient centers, as well as some doctors’ and dentists’ offices. During this procedure, an x-ray technologist uses a machine to take two-dimensional pictures of the inside of your body. It’s a quick process, and most x-rays are done within fifteen minutes.
After your appointment, a radiologist will examine the images and send the results to your physician.
What’s a fair price for an x-ray in the United States?
The average cost for an x-ray in the United States is $125, but prices can range from $50 to over $500. One of the biggest factors that affect the cost of your x-ray is whether you have it performed in an inpatient facility (like a hospital) or an outpatient facility (like a doctor’s office or urgent care center).
Based on our data, the target fair price for an x-ray is $65, whether you have health insurance or not.
- National Average: $125
- National Range: $45 – $775+
- Outpatient Facility Average: $75
- Inpatient Facility Average: $450
- Target Fair Price: $65
X-Ray Cost Averages Around the United States
What can affect how much an x-ray costs?
A few things can affect the cost of healthcare, no matter which type of procedure you’re getting. The main factors that decide the price of your procedure are:
- Facility setting — Different facilities can charge different amounts for the same procedure. Having your x-ray done in a hospital can cost far more than having it done in a doctor’s office or urgent care center. (Inpatient facilities, like hospitals, tend to cost more to run, so patients end up paying more for care.)
- Health insurance — The cost of an x-ray can vary between insurance providers. The price you pay largely depends on how much of the procedure your insurance plan covers, if any at all. If you don’t have health insurance, you can expect to pay the full cost out-of-pocket.
- Location — The region, state, and even city you live in can affect the cost of your medical procedure. For example, if you live in a rural area with fewer facilities to choose from, you’ll probably end up paying more than you would if you lived in a city with many different providers.
Inpatient vs. outpatient facility cost differences
Inpatient and outpatient facilities will offer significantly different prices for x-rays. The national average cost for an x-ray at inpatient facilities is $450. The same procedure at outpatient facilities averages $75.
Insured vs. uninsured cost differences
Usually, insured patients will pay less for x-rays than uninsured patients, especially when they stay in-network and have the procedure in an outpatient facility.
In-network vs. out-of-network cost differences
If you have health insurance, you’ll need to make sure you have your x-ray done at a facility that’s in your insurance network. In-network providers will almost always be cheaper than out-of-network providers.
Nearly everyone who has an x-ray will have to pay some of the cost out-of-pocket. If you don’t have health insurance, you’ll have to pay for the total cost of the procedure. If you have health insurance, you’ll still need to pay your deductible, copay, and coinsurance amounts. Your insurance benefits coordinator can help you understand how much your insurance covers and how much of the cost you’re responsible for — just call the number on the back of your insurance card and ask.
More factors that affect the cost of an x-ray
- Contrast materials — Your physician might request an x-ray with contrast materials, such as barium or iodine. These special dyes can help create a more detailed image of your soft tissues, like blood vessels and organs. If your doctor says you need an x-ray with contrast, ask if the contrast material is included in the total cost of your procedure.
- Additional office visits — You may have a follow-up appointment soon after the x-ray to discuss your results. Ask if this follow-up visit is included in the total cost of your procedure.
Are there alternatives to an x-ray?
An x-ray is a common procedure that allows your healthcare provider to see images of your bones, organs, and other internal structures. If your doctor recommends an x-ray, it’s probably because it’s the best imaging test for your situation. (X-rays are usually faster and more accessible than other forms of imaging.) There are some alternatives to an x-ray, though you’ll want to check with your doctor to see if they are a good option for you.
- Magnetic Resonance Imaging — Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is a procedure that uses radio waves and large magnets to take detailed images of the body’s internal structures. Unlike x-rays, MRIs don’t use ionizing radiation. An MRI may provide more detailed images than an x-ray, but the scan typically takes much longer to perform.
- Ultrasound — An ultrasound is an imaging test that uses sound waves to produce images of the organs, blood vessels, and other soft tissues inside the body. This procedure doesn’t produce the ionizing radiation present in x-rays. However, it only shows images of body parts that don’t contain gas and aren’t hidden by bone.
- CT Scan — A computed tomography (CT) scan is a diagnostic imaging test used to examine the bones, organs, blood vessels, and soft tissues inside the body. During a CT scan, x-rays are taken from many different angles. Then, a computer combines the images to create a cross-sectional picture.
The imaging test you get will depend on your personal health and your doctor’s recommendations. You can always ask your doctor why they’re recommending a specific procedure, and you always have the right to a second opinion.
Your x-ray checklist
- Review the total cost of your x-ray with your physician, and keep a record of what they say. If you get a higher medical bill than you expected, this information will come in handy.
- Ask your healthcare provider if you can get your x-ray in an outpatient setting.
- Check that all providers are in-network. Sometimes a provider who treats you will be out-of-network (such as a radiologist or x-ray technician). You can avoid this by asking your physician whether all of the providers who will treat you are in-network for your insurance.
- Ask what the typical cost is if the physician finds other areas that need to be examined during your x-ray.
Finding a fair price for your x-ray
The cost of an x-ray can vary widely between areas—and even within a single facility—and it can be difficult to know if you are paying a fair price. New Choice Health compares x-ray costs across healthcare facilities to give you the confidence that you’re getting the best value for your procedure. Use New Choice Health’s comparison tool to save money on your x-ray today.