Does Medicare Cover MRIs?

Original Medicare — Medicare Part A and Part B — covers 80% of an MRI’s cost if the health care providers involved accept Medicare. You’ll be responsible for 20% of the cost and your deductible. But having a Medigap policy or Medicare Advantage plan may reduce your out-of-pocket costs.

Terry Turner, writer and researcher for RetireGuide
  • Written by
    Terry Turner

    Terry Turner

    Senior Financial Writer and Financial Wellness Facilitator

    Terry Turner has more than 30 years of journalism experience, including covering benefits, spending and congressional action on federal programs such as Social Security and Medicare. He is a Certified Financial Wellness Facilitator through the National Wellness Institute and the Foundation for Financial Wellness and a member of the Association for Financial Counseling & Planning Education (AFCPE®).

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  • Edited By
    Matt Mauney
    Matt Mauney, Senior Editor for RetireGuide

    Matt Mauney

    Financial Editor

    Matt Mauney is an award-winning journalist, editor, writer and content strategist with more than 15 years of professional experience working for nationally recognized newspapers and digital brands. He has contributed content for ChicagoTribune.com, LATimes.com, The Hill and the American Cancer Society, and he was part of the Orlando Sentinel digital staff that was named a Pulitzer Prize finalist in 2017.

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  • Published: February 26, 2021
  • Updated: September 22, 2022
  • 5 min read time
  • This page features 10 Cited Research Articles
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APA Turner, T. (2022, September 22). Does Medicare Cover MRIs? RetireGuide.com. Retrieved September 29, 2022, from https://www.retireguide.com/medicare/services/mri/

MLA Turner, Terry. "Does Medicare Cover MRIs?" RetireGuide.com, 22 Sep 2022, https://www.retireguide.com/medicare/services/mri/.

Chicago Turner, Terry. "Does Medicare Cover MRIs?" RetireGuide.com. Last modified September 22, 2022. https://www.retireguide.com/medicare/services/mri/.

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MRI Coverage at a Glance
Medicare PlanMRI Coverage
Part A (Inpatient)MRIs are covered if ordered as part of an inpatient hospital stay.
Part B (Outpatient)Covers 80% of non-laboratory MRI costs if you meet coverage criteria.
Part C (Medicare Advantage)Costs for MRIs vary by plan.
Part D (Prescription Drugs)N/A
Supplemental InsuranceCan help cover out-of-pocket costs related to MRIs. Coverage varies by plan.

How Much Does Medicare Pay for an MRI?

Medicare will cover a portion of the cost of an MRI, or magnetic resonance imaging, scan in certain circumstances. But the MRI must meet three criteria.

Criteria for Medicare Coverage of an MRI
  • Your MRI is a necessary diagnostic test to determine your treatment for a medical condition.
  • The MRI was ordered by a doctor who accepts Medicare.
  • The MRI is performed in a hospital, ambulatory center or other facility that accepts Medicare

Your out-of-pocket cost will vary depending on what type of Medicare coverage you have.

If you have Original Medicare, Medicare pays for 80% of the costs if you meet all criteria.

When a Doctor May Order an MRI

MRIs are widely used around the world to diagnose a wide range of medical issues. A doctor may order an MRI to diagnose or rule out a particular medical condition.

Conditions MRIs May Help Examine, Diagnose or Rule Out
  • Abdominal organ abnormalities or diseases
  • Brain or spinal cord anomalies
  • Breast cancer in women at high risk
  • Heart conditions
  • Joint injuries or abnormalities
  • Liver diseases
  • Tumors, cysts or other abnormalities

MRIs differ from X-rays and CT scans in that they do not use ionizing radiation. Instead, an MRI uses a combination of an electromagnet, radio waves and a computer working together to create a detailed, cross-sectional image of the inside of your body.

According to 2022 data from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development — OECD — there were 108 MRI exams performed in the U.S. for every 1,000 people in the previous year.

What Are Your Costs for an MRI Under Medicare?

If you have Original Medicare, you will be responsible for 20% of the MRI’s cost. Your Medicare Part B deductible — $233 in 2022 — will also apply. If you have a Medigap policy or a Medicare Advantage plan, you may have to pay less.

If you had Original Medicare in 2022, the average out-of-pocket expenses for an unlisted — diagnostic or interventional — MRI came to $8 if done in an ambulatory surgery center and $16 if done in a hospital outpatient setting, according to Medicare’s Procedure Price Lookup tool. The type of MRI and part of the body being scanned affect the actual out-of-pocket cost.

The estimate included both facility and doctor fees, but if you have additional doctors you may have to pay more.

How Much Do MRIs Cost?
Without Medicare or other health insurance, an MRI scan can be expensive. The average price of an MRI in 2019 was $2,611, according to GE Healthcare. But the cost varied from $1,000 in Washington state to $4,000 in Alaska.
Source: GE Healthcare

Medigap policies are sold by private insurance companies. They fill in the “gaps” that Original Medicare does not cover — such as copayments, coinsurance and deductibles.

Medicare Advantage plans are also sold by private insurers. They must cover everything Original Medicare covers, but they may offer additional benefits.

You should check with your Medicare Advantage or Medigap administrator to see what your specific plan covers.

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Does Medicare Cover CT Scans and Other Diagnostic Scans?

Medicare classifies MRI scans as “diagnostic nonlaboratory tests” which are covered under Medicare Part B medical insurance.

These include a variety of tests that your doctor may order to diagnose or rule out a suspected illness or medical condition. Medicare covers 80% of the cost of diagnostic nonlaboratory tests, like MRIs, when ordered by a doctor who accepts Medicare.

Other Diagnostic Nonlaboratory Tests Medicare Covers
CT Scans
Computed tomography (CT) scans use X-rays and a computer to create a picture of your bones, organs and other tissue. CT scans can be used to examine just about any part of your body and can find fractures, tumors and complex medical conditions such as cancer or heart disease.
EKGs
Electrocardiograms — also called EKGs and ECGs — measure the electrical activity of your heartbeats. This electrical impulse causes your heart to squeeze and pump blood. An EKG can determine if you have a fast, slow or irregular heartbeat and can help a doctor tell if you have other heart problems.
X-rays
X-rays — also called radiography — are a form of radiation that can pass through your body and create photographic images of your internal bones, organs and other tissue. They are used to look for bone fractures, while chest x-rays are used to diagnose pneumonia. Mammograms use X-rays to find breast cancer.
PET Scans
Positron emission tomography — or PET — scans use a radioactive drug to see how your organs and tissue are functioning. The drug, called a tracer, can be swallowed, injected or inhaled. It collects in areas of your body with higher levels of chemical activity. Affected areas show up as bright spots on the scan. PET scans are used to look for cancer, heart problems and brain disorders.

Medicare beneficiaries pay 20% of the Medicare-approved costs for these types of tests if they are done in your doctor’s office or in a testing facility. You also have to pay your Medicare Part B deductible.

If you have the tests done in a hospital outpatient setting, you also have to pay a copayment out of your pocket for diagnostic nonlaboratory tests.

In addition, Medicare covers certain preventive services — tests and screenings — that can help find or prevent a medical issue.

Last Modified: September 22, 2022

10 Cited Research Articles

  1. OECD. (2022). Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) Exams. Retrieved from https://data.oecd.org/healthcare/magnetic-resonance-imaging-mri-exams.htm
  2. U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. (2022). Unlisted Magnetic Resonance Procedure (eg, Diagnostic, Interventional). Retrieved from https://www.medicare.gov/procedure-price-lookup/cost/76498
  3. U.S. National Library of Medicine. (2020, November 5). X-Rays. Retrieved from https://medlineplus.gov/xrays.html
  4. Ledbetter, S. (2020, April 2020). Does Medicare Cover MRI Scans? Retrieved from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/does-medicare-cover-mri-scans
  5. GE Healthcare. (2019, July 25). How Much Does an MRI Cost? Retrieved from https://www.gehealthcare.com/feature-article/how-much-does-an-mri-cost
  6. U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. (2018, April 10). National Coverage Determination (NCD) for Magnetic Resonance Imaging (220.2). Retrieved from https://www.cms.gov/medicare-coverage-database/view/ncd.aspx?NCDId=177&ncdver=6&bc=AAAAAAAAAQAA&
  7. American Heart Association. (2015, July 31). Electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG). Retrieved from https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/heart-attack/diagnosing-a-heart-attack/electrocardiogram-ecg-or-ekg
  8. U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. (n.d.). MRI Scan of Brain Before and After Contrast. Retrieved from https://www.medicare.gov/procedure-price-lookup/cost/70553/
  9. U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. (n.d.). Diagnostic Non-Laboratory Tests. Retrieved from https://www.medicare.gov/coverage/diagnostic-non-laboratory-tests
  10. Mayo Clinic. (n.d.). Positron Emission Tomography Scan. Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/pet-scan/about/pac-20385078