Here’s How To Get An MRI Without Insurance And How Much It Costs

Do you need an MRI  scan, but you are not insured? Or your health insurance does not allow it? Well, here is a simple and brief explanation on how to get an MRI without insurance.

To get an MRI without insurance, first, you need to obtain a doctor’s referral that you need an MRI scan. Once you have obtained a doctor’s referral, you may now look for local freestanding imaging facilities or local urgent care clinics that have resources to perform imaging tests. 

The MRI cost without insurance varies depending on which part of your body requires scanning. In California, the most expensive MRI scan is the MRI of the cervical spine that costs ranging from $450 to $1200, while the least expensive is the MRI of the foot that costs around $300 to $750. That is why, if you don’t have health insurance or your health insurance is unwilling to help you cover the fees of an MRI scan, then that would be costly. 

Well, here are the ways on how to get a low-cost MRI scan without the help of your health insurance company.

Where to Get a Cheap MRI Scan?

Most probably your physician will not inform you where to get a low-cost MRI scan, that is why you must do your own research on where to find these cheaper imaging facilities that conduct MRI scanning so that you can get the lowest possible quote.

Another tip you may do is to tell the doctor right away that you cannot afford the MRI scanning fee in the hospital. In this way, you will be dropped out from the list of prey they need to pressure to get the MRI scan in the hospital. However, you must make sure to get a doctor’s referral since this is the initial step in finding the local facilities that offer affordable prices for an MRI scan.

Here are some suggestions on where to get low-cost MRI scan:

1. Local Freestanding Imaging Facilities 

When we say freestanding facilities, these are outpatient facilities, ambulatory centers, or diagnostic and imaging facilities that are not affiliated with any hospital. They usually offer cheaper, yet effective services than those in hospital-based for specific outpatients, such as those needing imaging tests.

Freestanding imaging facilities are more preferred nowadays to get quality and affordable diagnostic imaging needs.  It will cost you ¾ less than the usual fee for imaging tests and you can assure that the quality will not be at risk since the professionals on duty are trained and capable of doing the procedure.

Hence, you may check this site to see the directory of freestanding facilities in California.

2. Local Urgent Care Clinics

These are walk-in clinics or services owned by a hospital, group of doctors, or some investors so that they can provide services for extended periods and they usually operate during weekends.

Urgent care clinics can treat minor injuries and illnesses wherein they are not serious enough to go to the Emergency Room (ER). These centers usually cost cheaper and the waiting time is shorter than an ER. 

Most urgent care clinics and centers are equipped to perform diagnostic tests; therefore, you may ask for a price quote before you make an appointment. 

Hence, here are some of the best Urgent Care Clinics in California. 

1. Pay in Cash and Save 40% to 80% 

What’s good about having your MRI scan in standalone clinics is that you can negotiate or you will be given discounts as a privilege for paying in cash. This is because the imaging center will be less hassled dealing with insurance companies and they can save money on billing costs; therefore, giving you large discounts on the test. 

You can save as much as $400 for an MRI scan if you go to these standalone clinics and pay in cash. What a life hack!

2. Consider Having MRI Scan in Large Metro Cities

In large cities such as Los Angeles, Phoenix, and Chicago, where they offer competitive rates because of the increasing numbers of freestanding medical facilities in their area. Therefore, you may consider having an MRI scan in these areas.

  • MRI scan in Los Angeles California: One of the most numerous standalone clinics in the states. The price for an MRI scan cost around $250 to $700
  • MRI scan in Phoenix, Arizona: One of the best MRI centers in the state because of their fully-equipped freestanding centers. The cost of an MRI scan range around $350 to $700
  • MRI scan in Chicago, Illinois: It offers both cheap and expensive MRI scan locations where the cost for an MRI scan is around $350 to $800

However, you must remember that you need a doctor’s referral before setting an appointment with these standalone and urgent care clinics since most of them will require you to do so. Otherwise, here is a cheap MRI scan without a doctor referral, wherein you can get an MRI scan for as low as $399. 

For instance, your health insurance approves your MRI scan, what are the steps to get an MRI? Will you be covered right away? Or you need to meet a lot of requirements before you get covered? Well, you will get to know all of these on the next topic below.

How to Get an MRI Approved by Insurance?

Your doctor will recommend you get a diagnostic test such as an MRI, x-rays, and others so that your doctor will know better your condition. The cost to get this test is kinda expensive if you are not covered by your health insurance or your insurance is not willing to cover your diagnostic test.

But, if you are a luckily insured and your health insurance approves the coverage of your diagnostic test, let’s say you need to have an MRI scan; therefore, you need to meet the requirements in order to qualify for the coverage.

Hence, here is a guide or just a simple reminder you must know on how to get an MRI approved by your health insurance.

Step 1: Pre-plan Your Coverage

  • Make sure you know the covered facilities of your insurance company. You may get the contact information through the provided directory of your insurance company’s website. Look which is the nearest to your area and the most affordable one.
  • Get an estimate quote based on your health insurance coverage. Visit the nearest facilities around your area and inquire how much it would cost you, plus the health insurance coverage.
  • Take note of the estimated cost of every facility you have visited. Alongside with the cost, you must take note as well as the name of the person you have talked with and the date. In this way, you can decide and choose, which facility has the best affordable price to get an MRI scan. Keep the notes in hand, just in case you need to negotiate the bill for later use.

Step 2: Get a Prior Authorization

Once you have chosen the accredited facility covered by your health insurance company, they will require you to get a prior authorization in the form of a doctor’s referral. This is because your insurance company wants to assure you that you badly needed the procedure so that they contain the cost of the diagnostic test.

Make sure to request a doctor’s referral certificate and then submit it to your insurer. However, there are some health policies that no longer require prior authorization; therefore, try to contact your insurer to confirm so that you can get an MRI scan right away.

Step 3: Thoroughly Check the Medical Bill Before Paying

A couple of weeks before your appointment date to the procedure, you will be receiving documents from your insurance company and the facility you will be having the test with. You will be receiving an explanation of benefits (EOB) and your portion of the bill that you need to pay.

Your EOB statement provides a detailed list of the procedure codes on the medical insurance claim that explains the portion billed to your insurer and whether they were already paid. Any portion of the statement that is not covered by the insurance company such as your health insurance deductibles will be billed by the facility and that is your responsibility to pay directly to the facility. 

If you are not satisfied with the amount you will be expecting to pay (it is higher than what you expected), you may call the facility and request a more detailed and itemized code for individual charges. Moreover, you may consider negotiating the medical bill to reduce the fee. Here is a guide, which you may find useful during those times. 

You may also check if the facility provides any assistance program or discount if you pay in cash. In this way, it can help in reducing your medical bill.


It is indeed that medical procedures such as diagnostic tests are expensive if you do not have any health insurance or you are having a hard time haggling with your insurer. Therefore, if this happens, you must be prepared for an alternative solution such as finding a local standalone clinic or centers, which offer quality and affordable diagnostic services. Make sure to obtain a valid doctor’s referral certificate, so that the procedure will be carried right away.

On the other hand, if your insurance company approves the coverage of your diagnostic test, just do the following steps above to get the most out of your health insurance policy.