Low cost MRI?????
June 24, 2007 6:51 AM   Subscribe

Is there such a thing as low cost MRI's?

I had a seizure recently in my sleep and need to get MRI done for research and literal peace of mind. I do not have health insurance and am looking for low cost options. Are teaching universities one option?
posted by goalyeehah to Health & Fitness (15 answers total)
Most teaching hospitals don't have discount health care... you may want to call your local hospitals and see if they have any research studies that you qualify/could sign up for.
posted by blackkar at 7:04 AM on June 24, 2007

I had a free MRI done by signing up for a research study. It was an fMRI of my brain, but they took bunch of baseline shots to see what was were. When we were done, they burned the images onto a CD for me. You might ask around your local hospital to see if there are any studies like that going on. If you want the email address of the people here in DC, leave a note here and I will email it to you. I don't feel right posting their address publicly without their permission.
posted by procrastination at 7:23 AM on June 24, 2007

I sympathize, as I just had one done this week and it's going to cost $1900 or so, of which my insurance will pick up less than half.

I'm assuming you live in LA from the website linked in your profile. We care medical mall claims to do one for $480 ($380 w/o contrast), but I don't think that it's an fMRI (I don't know if you need an fMRI). They require a doctor's referral however, and you can expect that initial appointment and the followup to interpret the results to cost something as well. LA has a free clinic, but I have no idea if you can get neurological treatment there.

As an OT bit of extra advice. If you haven't had one before, about 5% of the people undergoing an MRI have an anxiety attack or claustrophobic reaction that prevents them from completing the procedure (not as bad for open MRIs). If you are the slightest bit claustrophobic, tell the doctor, and he'll have them include a sedative or anti-anxiety drug. I didn't sedate, and I found it to be extremely unpleasant, even though I've never exhibited claustrophobia before even when caving. I had them crank up the fan to get more air, and it was bearable but unpleasant.
posted by BrotherCaine at 7:51 AM on June 24, 2007

There are MRI studies at research hospitals. Most are psych studies that, to qualify, will give you a free MRI screening to make sure you're actually healthy at the beginning. Of course, if you actually get into the study, then you're stuck with an MRI a week or such for a few months, which I've heard kind of sucks. But they pay decently, too. I don't know if they're open to non-students, however .
posted by devilsbrigade at 8:18 AM on June 24, 2007

The anatomical MRI we acquire for a fMRI research study is not suitable for clinical diagnosis.

We don't just say that to cover our asses. When a neurologist orders an MRI, they usually order it with several different contrasts (T1, T2 fat sat, T1 with Gadolinium). When we acquire our MPRAGE image, we generally do a single 1mm axial-plane T1-weighted scan. Even some gross abnormalities can be difficult to detect in that image - it's really only useful for coregistration, display, and normalization of the functional image sequence.

Finally, even if you were to get a full MRI workup, what are you going to do with it? You need someone to read it, and you certainly need an EEG as well.
posted by dmd at 10:06 AM on June 24, 2007

You can often get surprising discounts if you pre-negotiate with labs that provide these services. If you're seeing a doctor, their office may be willing to help and even negotiate on your behalf.

A few years back, I needed a test that listed at $2000, but I got it for $400 by pre-negotiating and paying up front. The way it worked was that I prepaid, and then they sent me the bill for the balance, but then I called in and they fixed it. (they warned me this was how it would work -- this wasn't a surprise.) Overall, it was very painless and easy, and I paid only 20% of the list price for the test.

Insurance companies pay a lot less than full list price for anything, so by calling around, you can often do pretty well.
posted by Malor at 11:05 AM on June 24, 2007

I second the suggestion to get a valium or xanax ahead of time. I'd never had any claustrophia before, but the second they clamped the plastic thing down on my head I totally freaked out. They had to get an order for xanax and then I had to wait for it to work, so even if you don't think you'll need it, tell the doctor and at least have it with you.
posted by la petite marie at 11:09 AM on June 24, 2007

Is there such a thing as low cost MRI's?

For an absolute answer.. "yes," because even private MRIs in other countries are significantly cheaper than those in the US. I've seen a clinic offering MRIs here in the UK for a few hundred pounds including consultation. Indeed, I just googled "private mri" and one ad is offering one for around £230 ($460ish). I bet in Eastern Europe or the Far East you'd be looking at even less.
posted by wackybrit at 2:30 PM on June 24, 2007

Seconding what Mator said - we did this for my husband a few years ago when we were without health insurance and got one for around $600 I believe just by calling and letting them know you are a self-pay patient.
posted by heartquake at 2:53 PM on June 24, 2007

Response by poster: EEG's have already been done. Thanks y'all for info.
posted by goalyeehah at 2:53 PM on June 24, 2007

A lot of openMRI shops take people without insurance. Out by me there's one that does it for $350. Call around, tell them you dont have insurance, and let them make an offer.
posted by damn dirty ape at 3:37 PM on June 24, 2007

You know, there's a saying amongst doctors that goes something like this... Any doctor that tries to treat himself has a fool for a patient and an idiot for a doctor. And I'm going to assume that you aren't even a doctor for that matter.

I bring this up not to belittle, but because seizures aren't the kind of thing to mess around with and a negative MRI while perhaps reassuring to you, may not mean that another seizure isn't in your future. So perhaps you might consider the cheaper first step of seeing a decent neurologist in consultation before getting a radiologist's read on an imaging study that you will ultimately have no idea how to interpret.
posted by drpynchon at 9:20 PM on June 24, 2007

Response by poster: I have already seen a neurologist. It is he who has recommended the MRI. The cost he gives to do it at his office is $750.00. I will see if I can negotiate a better price with him tomorrow.
posted by goalyeehah at 10:22 PM on June 24, 2007

$750 sounds pretty decent, actually.
posted by dmd at 7:50 AM on June 25, 2007

There's at least two kinds of MRI... there's the kind done by BIG machines that returns very high-resolution films, and a kind that's less detailed. I BELIEVE the less detailed kind is OpenMRI. $750 for an OpenMRI is very expensive..you should be able to get one for $300-$350 if you shop. $750 for the big expensive machine would be very good.
posted by Malor at 9:17 AM on June 25, 2007

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