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Cheap X-Rays: Fact or Fallacy?

If you have to go to urgent care with no insurance, you’re looking for the lowest costs including cheap x-rays.   But how do you know what you’re paying is the lowest possible price? And what is cheap, exactly?

Location, Location, Location

Pricing depends much on where you live and what kind of facility you visit.  Medical treatment may be pricey in big cities with rich neighborhoods whereas a smaller town or a depressed neighborhood may have lower cost services. You may even find huge variation in pricing within the same town or city. When you look for cheap x-rays, often hospitals are a poor choice as they have overhead, set payment structures which fit people with insurance, and they are less likely to negotiate with you.  A smaller clinic, a clinic with outpatient services, or an in-office x-ray may be lower cost than a hospital.

A Dollar in the Hand…

Not all x-rays are created equal nor are they always just one. You may think you need one x-ray of your elbow, but your doctor may need several different x-rays to properly diagnose your condition. He or she may want to look at the joint from various angles to determine if you fractured it or have some other condition.  The initial cost of one or two cheap x-rays suddenly compounds to three or four, thus driving the price up significantly.

Also, one price for one body part may be more than another body part.  A hand x-ray may cost much differently than a chest x-ray. There also may be a series of x-rays required for diagnosing a certain condition. When in doubt, ask. The staff at the hospital or clinic should be clear as to how much you will pay.  If they aren’t, you need to insist on pricing.

Not Just the X-ray

Part of the x-ray pricing includes the time spent by the radiologist who evaluates the x-ray. The radiologist’s interpretation is important because even if you get cheap x-rays, they are very expensive if no one can read them.

Know What It Should Cost

Because medical prices vary widely, you should find out what the going rate for x-rays and other services are in your area. One way to do that is to use Healthcare Blue Book which includes prices for certain treatments and diagnostic services according to your area. You can look up your fair price rates for certain x-rays in your area and compare them to the price quotes you’ve received. You’re at a much better position to bargain if you know what a fair cost is.

Lastly, one way to ensure cheap x-rays is to ask the medical staff for cash-payer discounts. When the clinic’s staff understands you’ll be paying cash, they may cut you a deeper deal and thus saving you a lot of money.

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