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Announcing nationwide imaging cost estimates on Amino

Search from more than 2 million MRI and X-ray cost estimates to find the care you need at the right price

More and more, people are asking questions about their healthcare—but they’re not getting answers. Last week, we released a survey that found that 64% of Americans would like to lower their healthcare costs, but don’t know how.

That struck a nerve with me. Back in October when I visited a physiatrist recommended to me by Amino for my severe lower back pain and leg weakness (called radiculopathy), I thought getting a preoperative MRI would be the least painful part of getting better. But I couldn’t find reliable price information online, and even the doctor couldn’t give me a rough cost estimate.

I went to the imaging center, got my scan, and left, not really knowing what to expect. Little did I know, my MRI cost hundreds of dollars—and I had no idea why I had to drive more than 30 miles to get it, or whether that really was the best option available nearby.

Here's what my spine MRI looked like. Turns out, $300 is a fair price—but I had no way of knowing what was fair or not at the time.

Too often, Americans are put in this position when they seek care. Despite the fact that diagnostic imaging accounts for $100 billion in annual healthcare spending, it’s notoriously difficult to figure out how much your MRI or X-ray will cost. A quick Google search will tell you the obvious (it’s expensive), but not what you really want to know (how expensive, exactly? And where can I get the best care for my money?). Journalists, researchers, and opinion leaders have asked why we can’t access this information.

Today, Amino is taking one more step toward fixing that problem. If your doctor has referred you for an MRI or X-ray, you can now use Amino to find and book a facility that best fits your needs, whether it’s a hospital or freestanding imaging center. Search from 6 types of MRIs and 8 types of X-rays to see how much you might pay in your area, based on more than 2 million customized cost estimates. (For those who are curious, here’s how we determined those estimates.)

Imaging costs vary drastically—depending on where you go

Our searchable database includes more than 23,000 imaging facilities across the country, including both hospitals and freestanding imaging centers—14,000 of which currently show cost estimates. It’s generally known that hospital MRIs could cost you thousands, while many freestanding imaging centers offer them for a few hundred dollars. But when we dug into the data, we found cost discrepancies that were shocking—even for healthcare.

Take Rockville, MD for example. For Aetna, the network rate estimate (how much you and your health insurance together may pay) for a limb MRI at Adventist HealthCare Shady Grove Medical Center is $2,321. At Bethesda MRI and CT, a freestanding imaging center 10 minutes away, our estimate is only $480—$1,841 less. See how your state compares below.

With the average individual deductible above $1,000, these cost differences are enough to send many people into debt. Of course, cheaper isn’t always better, and imaging is no exception. Quality can vary drastically, too, depending on what kind of equipment is used, who interprets the scan, and turnaround time. We understand that these are important decision factors you should always ask about—and we’re determining how we can incorporate them into our product.

But personal healthcare decisions are never about just one factor. And keeping information behind closed doors—only available to billing departments and insurance companies—doesn’t help anyone.

Our survey revealed that a majority of Americans think receiving a large medical bill they can’t afford is just as bad as being diagnosed with a serious illness. Consider that for a moment. If we’re at the point where medical bills are as scary as cancer, we have a problem.

If you’re expected to foot the bill, you have every right to know your options. That’s why we spent more than half a year understanding and interpreting our imaging data, so we could make it available to anyone who needs it—for free.

Beyond finding doctors—where Amino is headed

This marks an important milestone for Amino, as we expand beyond doctors into connecting people to various types of care. Now that we’ve unlocked the data science that powers our imaging estimates, we’ll be adding CT scans and ultrasounds soon—along with more facility types like urgent care, emergency rooms, and ambulatory surgical centers. As we expand, we’ll continue working on core features that inform everyday health decisions, like improving our provider profiles and adding symptom search.

It doesn’t matter if you’re looking for an MRI, X-ray, or even just an annual check-up—we’re here to help you find and conveniently book the best care possible.

Me, right before back surgery. We take user testing really seriously.

Find out how much an MRI costs in your state

The cost of an MRI can vary drastically, depending on where you go and what state you live in. If there’s a big cost difference in your area, talk to your doctor (the physician who’s ordering your exam) and ask why they’re recommending a particular imaging center. They might have a great reason, and sometimes it makes sense to pay more. But sometimes, they might not know there’s a more convenient, cheaper option down the street—or they may not be aware of the price tag at all.

Check out the most expensive and least expensive MSAs for a limb MRI.

Amino's cost estimates are refreshed periodically. This post was last updated on May 11, 2017 with new data.