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How much is a CT scan? National averages and how to pay less.

Key takeaways:

  • In the United States, a CT scan can range from hundreds to thousands of dollars.
  • Factors affecting the cost of a CT scan include healthcare setting, payment method, organs or body parts, and location or market.
  • Transparent pricing helps healthcare consumers make better choices.

The exact cost of a CT scan is difficult to pin down. Most websites are unhelpful, only giving broad ranges or “national averages.” You can try asking your healthcare provider but the truth is, there are too many variables. You might have better luck asking your Magic 8-ball, “How much is a CT scan”?

However, we’ll tell you why the range of costs is so large and other options beyond CT scans.

Cost disparity in healthcare and the need for transparency.

How much is a CT scan? Woman looking ahead

Imagine three people standing in a checkout line. They each have an apple. The apples are identical in type, size, beauty, and taste. The first customer paid $1 for her apple, the second was charged $3 for his apple, and the third got theirs for free. That example shows disparity in pricing, and this applies to healthcare. It may seem random, but we’ll explain why it happens. 

Cost disparity in healthcare refers to the difference between the lowest and highest charge for a procedure or service among a community at large. Many times, it refers to discrimination due to race, gender, or economic status. However, for this discussion, the “community” is anyone who is “self-pay,” including the uninsured.

A Crowe report titled “Transparent Doesn’t Equal Rational found a 297% difference between the lowest and highest charges incurred for the same procedure in the same or similar market. 

The report found that healthcare consumers are not unlike any other shopper. 

First, we need to know the price upfront. We want to understand why there is a price difference in the first place. For example, does a facility offer something special (special or better, faster features)? These are all valid questions for any consumer considering a large purchase. 

The report concludes:

“Facilities that can clearly state the total price to be paid for a set of clinical services – before those services are delivered – and then charge only that price after the services are delivered will give consumers basic information they need to make rational decisions.”

In other words, you’ll make the best decision when you have all the facts. 

What is a CT scan?

CT scan and CAT scan are different names for the same test: the computed tomography scan. The CT scanner is a piece of diagnostic imaging equipment comprising a table, and a large donut-shaped unit called the gantry. There are cooling systems and generators, control panels, and lots of moving parts.

A CT scan can detect early tissue changes including tumors and lesions that are smaller than one centimeter. But unlike an X-ray, a CT produces multiple images at different angles and segments.

During the scan, you’ll lay still while the CT machine’s scanners pivot and rotate around you. The imaging table slides in and out. The newest CT machines are fast, taking as many as 640 virtual slices a minute. The CT scan is painless.

How much is a CT scan on average? 

According to data from New Choice Health, the price range for a conventional chest CT scan is between $350 to $6,750, putting the national average price at $3,275. But how does that break down in major markets across the country?

Note: Ezra Partner Facilities in these same regions offer comprehensive whole-body MRI scans at a low, fixed price. A low-dose CT scan of the chest is included with the Ezra Full Body Plus scan.

Types of CT scan

The cost of your CT scan will vary based on the organ, or body part, to image. Here are the three most common:

  • Brain CT: $825 to $4,800
  • Chest CT: $675 to $8,600
  • Heart CT: $625 to $12,700

Healthcare setting

No other factor affects healthcare cost more than where you have your CT scan. Here are the national average costs for a CT at the three most common types of facilities:

  • Outpatient imaging center: $525
  • Hospital inpatient: average $4,750
  • Emergency room: Inpatient fee plus $2,000

Payment methods

Most healthcare consumers fall into three categories: self-pay, commercially insured, and publicly insured, with some overlap regarding gap insurance and supplemental insurance. That means there are at least three prices for the same service.

Networks like health insurance companies and government payers like Medicare have pricing advantages that self-pay consumers do not. They keep costs low in two ways:

  1. Insurers negotiate vastly lower rates because of the high volume of scans they order each year. 
  2. Government payers use a set fee schedule to determine the amount they will pay for every medical procedure, product, and service.

But even if you have insurance, the amount you will pay out-of-pocket expenses depends on your coverage and these factors:

  • Deductibles 
  • Copays 
  • Out-of-network fees
  • Co-insurance costs

The truth is, due to high out-of-pocket costs, CT scans can be quite expensive for the insured and self-pay consumers. 

Studies show that cancer follow-ups get delayed due to high out-of-pocket costs even for the insured. Patients can only advocate for themselves. But isn’t access to care important for everyone? 

Are CT scans the best choice for cancer screening?

Both MRI and CT scans render dynamic images that help clinicians pinpoint and evaluate suspicious findings. CT scans are often preferred for evaluating bone, acute trauma, and bleeding to name a few. An MRI can help find abnormalities which healthcare professionals can interpret. These can include indications of possible cancers of the uterus, bladder, prostate, and other organs. 

An Ezra Full Body Plus is designed to screen for potential cancers in the head, breast, neck, chest, abdomen and pelvis. It involves an approximately 60-minute full-body MRI and a 5-minute low-dose chest CT service. For more information on how long a CT scan at Ezra takes versus an Ezra Full Body, you can refer here.   

A type of CT scan called an LDCT (low-dose computed tomography) is better at screening for lung cancer in patients who are at high-risk. As mentioned, Ezra provides an LDCT in it’s Ezra Full Body Plus plan whole-body cancer screening packages. 

While a CT scan can take less time, CT scans emit ionizing radiation.  Therefore, they might not be the best choice for elective cancer screening of the whole body for people at high risk for cancer. 

MRIs do not use harmful ionizing radiation and therefore do not pose a cancer risk. However, not everyone is a good candidate for MRI screening, including:

  • Patients with some types of implanted medical devices
  • Patients with tattoos, permanent make-up, and metal body modification that can’t be removed.
  • Patients who are claustrophobic
  • Some patients who are obese

If you fit any of these criteria, let your provider know before the scan.

A better choice

Woman on laptop

There had to be a better way. How about a refreshingly simple, no-surprises approach to medicine that revolves around you, the patient? 

Ezra offers high-tech imaging with full transparency and up-front fixed pricing, no matter who you are or how you pay.

The Ezra Full Body.  

An Ezra Full Body includes a 60-minute MRI of up to 13 organs, a 45-minute follow-up consultation, a personal care advisor, and a midyear check-in. Plus, you can pay for your Ezra Scan with your FSA or HSA plan.

The Ezra Full Body includes an MRI scan of the following organs:

  • Brain
  • Kidney
  • Spine
  • Adrenal glands
  • Thyroid
  • Bladder
  • Gallbladder
  • Ovaries
  • Pancreas
  • Uterus
  • Spleen
  • Prostate
  • Liver

The Ezra Full Body Plus. 

Your scan includes everything listed for an Ezra Full Body. It also may include a five-minute, low-dose chest CT, coronary calcium scoring and a prostate scan with IV contrast if medically appropriate. Both the Ezra Full Body and the Full Body Plus include a 45-minute follow-up consultation with an Ezra Medical Provider, a personal Ezra Care Advisor, and a midyear check-in.

  • Brain
  • Spleen
  • Spine
  • Kidney
  • Thyroid
  • Adrenal glands
  • Bladder
  • Liver
  • Ovaries
  • Gallbladder
  • Uterus
  • Pancreas
  • Heart
  • Prostate
  • Lungs

Ezra Scans are designed for peace of mind and require no insurance or primary care referral.

Just book online, fill out a short medical questionnaire, and show up 30-minutes before your scan appointment. Next, you’ll be guided by a facility member to get ready for your scan. 

Ezra supplies comfy pajamas, slippers and earplugs. You are able to speak with the technician at any point during your scan. After your scan, your Care Advisor will schedule your video consultation via Zoom within 5 business days. The Ezra Report is delivered over a 45-minute consultation with your Ezra Medical Provider. 

Ezra aims to improve access to care because everyone deserves to live their best life and to enjoy the peace of mind that comes with health. No insurance or primary care referral is required. You can book an Ezra Scan in less than 5 minutes.