The community member shared about an MRI that cost $600 — with a note saying “Cash price was $600, or if I used my insurance, my co-pay was around $2000. I paid cash.” The provider was Bryan Radiology Associates in Bryan, Tex.
We’re always interested when people tell us “no one shops for health care,” So I asked her a few questions and here’s how she answered.
“It was a while back, but I will answer your questions to the best of my abilities. first of all, I think I selected the wrong procedure when I submitted my information. It was an abdominal CT Scan, not an MRI. I was just digging around for info on this when I realized my mistake. But the details of costs associated remain the same.”
1. Can you tell us about the circumstances? As in, what were they looking for?
“I had abdominal pain that was unexplained. Turned out to be gall bladder…. pain was on left side instead of right side, which was uncharacteristic of gall bladder issues.”
2. Do you have a bill you could share with us? Please feel free to black out any identifying details.
“eeek. I don’t think so. My medical costs are never the amount I can write off against my taxes, so I typically get rid of the bills at the end of the year.”
3. How did you find out the difference in prices? Did the people at Bryan Radiology know before you came in that these price disparities exist?
“I was already approximately $1000 in with co-pays from doctor visits, ex-rays with contrast etc. I was ordered a CT Scan and went to have it done at St. Joseph Hospital in College Station. Unfortunately (or rather, in retrospect, fortunately) they were not able to do the CT Scan because of lingering contrast in my system. I was told to reschedule the appointment for a couple of days later once all contrast from previous x-rays had passed completely from my system.
“I went back to the doctor, and casually mentioned to the person in the exam room with me (nurse or some type of medical assistant) that — while I know my health is important — I was concerned about the mounting costs for figuring out what was causing my abdominal pain…. and was there anything different we could do, as I already knew my co-pay for the CT Scan was going to be about $2000.
“The person I spoke with then told me that because the doctor’s medical practice was owned by St. Joseph Hospital, they were not allowed to propose other alternative avenues UNLESS SPECIFICALLY ASKED. She then told me that Bryan Radiology was who they were using for reading the results, and that they use the same machine. She told me I could call them and ask about a cash pay option. I did, and the cash pay was $600.
“So it is not *exactly* apples to apples, as the original treatment was: 1) scan at hospital using hospital machine, 2) send scans to Bryan Radiology and have their radiologist read the scan and send to my doctor.
“The treatment I had was 1) scan at Bryan Radiology using the in-office machine, 2) have the same radiologist read the scan and send to my doctor.”
4. Have you had other such episodes — or, put another way, did you know that cash prices can be less than insured, and if so, how?
“I’ve discovered GoodRX and now compare their prices when I’m written a prescription to see if I can find it for less expensive.”
5. Who insures you?
“Blue Cross Blue Shield of Texas”
(Editor’s note: I changed her PriceCheck report to a CT scan from an MRI.)