From broken bones to dental procedures, there are many ways x-rays are used to diagnose and treat people. The cost of an x-ray will vary by location and facility.
Other factors that influence the cost are what type of insurance you have, if you are cash-paying (paying out-of-pocket), the location of injury needing the x-ray, and how many views need to be taken.
Before getting your x-ray done, it’s important to research which facility will have the best price for you.
Outpatient clinics and imaging centers will likely have the most affordable price, followed by Urgent Care. Emergency rooms and hospitals will likely be the most costly.
Cash-paying patients can expect to pay as little as $45-$250 per x-ray at an outpatient clinic.
In this article, we will talk about what an x-ray is, the cost of x-rays with or without insurance, and the cost of x-rays of different locations/parts of your body.
We will also discuss different facilities and locations to get x-rays, factors that influence cost, how you can avoid high costs, and what the No Surprise Act is.
What is an X-ray?
X-rays, also called radiographs, are a form of electromagnetic radiation, similar to visible light, except they have higher energy and can pass through the body.
These create a picture of the inside of your body using different shades of black and white.
The different shades on the picture are caused by the amount of radiation various tissues absorb.
For example, bones absorb more x-rays, so they appear whiter than other tissues against the black background of a radiograph.
Because x-rays travel more easily through fat and muscle and air-filled spaces like the lungs, these structures will appear darker in shades of gray.
X-rays can be used to diagnose anything from broken bones, pneumonia, intestinal blockage, a tooth cavity, and much more.
Depending on the type of x-ray, the technician may have you change into a medical gown.
Then you will be given a lead apron to protect certain parts of your body that you want to protect from radiation exposure.
The x-ray pictures are typically quick to take.
Usually, more than one angle is needed so that the area can be seen from different views.
The images are then sent to a radiologist who interprets the x-ray and writes a report for your doctor who ordered the x-ray.
Cost of an X-ray
The cost of an x-ray varies widely depending on the type of insurance you have, your deductible, if you are cash-paying, what type of x-ray you need, and even which location or facility you use.
X-rays are usually covered by insurance.
If you have a high deductible and have not met it, you will have to pay out-of-pocket for the x-ray until you meet your deductible, which could range somewhere between $100 and $1,000.
If you have met your deductible, you should check with your insurance plan to see what your co-pay and coinsurance will be.
Ask your doctor for the procedure and diagnosis codes before calling your insurance.
Give those codes to your insurance company, let them know the names of your local hospital, urgent care center, and independent radiology/imaging center, and ask them what the price would be for each location.
There are occasions when insurance denies an x-ray. This can be for different reasons, sometimes as simple as clarifying a diagnosis code.
However, if your insurance will not cover the x-ray, you can still opt to get it by being cash-pay (paying out-of-pocket).
Paying out-of-pocket is quick, as you do not have to wait for insurance processing or approval, but it will be important for you to reach out to imaging facilities to ask what the cash-pay price would be.
If you don’t have insurance, an x-ray will cost somewhere between $100-$1,000. The average x-ray cost is around $260-$460.
The price varies by provider, what location you are getting the x-ray, the part of the body needing the x-ray, and how many views need to be taken.
For example, without insurance, a 2-view chest x-ray in Texas at a large hospital system was quoted to be $544. With insurance, it was $112.
As of January 2021, hospitals are now required to display the pricing for their services online.
This gives you the opportunity to look around to see where the best deal is.
A chest x-ray is when an image is taken of the chest, lungs, hearts, ribs, large arteries, and diaphragm. Generally, two pictures are taken while you stand in front of the x-ray machine.
The radiographers will ask you to hold your breath for a few seconds while they get the image. The national average cost for a chest x-ray is about $420.
There are 3 areas of the spine that we can get an x-ray for – the cervical spine, thoracic spine, and lumbar spine. Often in the lower back, a lumbosacral x-ray is taken, including the sacrum.
A cervical-spine series is used to evaluate the 7 vertebrae in your neck area.
This series is vital in trauma evaluation and can be useful in other situations, like evaluating degenerative changes.
A thoracic x-ray takes a picture of the 12 vertebrae in your mid-spine. The pictures are taken while you lay on the x-ray table in different positions.
The machine will be moved over the area of your thoracic spine, and the technician will ask you to hold your breath for a few seconds while the image is taken.
Usually, two to three views will be needed. It is often used to evaluate pain in the upper to middle areas of the back.
A lumbosacral x-ray is an image of the small vertebrae in the lower part of the spine. It also includes the area that connects the spine to the pelvis.
To get the images, you will be asked to lie on the x-ray table in different positions while the machine is moved over the area.
The technician will ask you to hold your breath for a few seconds while taking the images. It typically requires three to five images to be taken.
Dental x-rays are images of the teeth and mouth. The technician will ask you to bite down on a tab that will be placed in your mouth.
Multiple angles and placements of the tab are generally needed to get an image of all the teeth.
Dental x-rays can cost anywhere from $20-250 depending on the type of imaging required by your dentist.
A foot x-ray is generally a quick and easy process.
You will be asked to lie still on the x-ray table, and the technician will usually take three pictures. The national average price is $290.
The cost of an x-ray will vary by facility. You may have the knee-jerk reaction to rush to the hospital.
However, that is typically the most expensive facility to get an x-ray.
Of course, the hospital may be the best place for overall care and treatment in emergency situations.
If you are not in an emergent situation, an outpatient clinic with same-day availability or urgent care would be the most affordable option.
Of course if you have been in a major injury or accident and need evaluation by a surgeon, the emergency room is recommended in this situation as
Some outpatient clinics offer radiology services.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has a locator to help you find clinics that provide a discounted rate based on your income.
This is a great tool to locate your nearest affordable clinic, and you can call to schedule an appointment and check if they offer the services you are seeking.
Factors that Influence Cost
There are a few variables that determine the cost of your x-ray.
- Insurance status: Not all insurance plans will cover x-rays. If you have not yet met your deductible, you may be responsible for paying for the service. If your deductible has been met, the cost of the visit will depend on your insurance’s co-pay and how much coinsurance you pay. You can always call your insurance to find out.
- Additional tests: Sometimes, additional tests or treatments are required depending on what type of injury you have. These could be blood work, stitches, or other diagnostic tests.
- Medications: Depending on your pain level, you may need medication to make you more comfortable or possibly antibiotics if an infection could be an issue.
How to Avoid High Costs
There are a few different ways to avoid high costs when you need to get an x-ray.
- Location: The location you go to largely controls how much you will spend for an x-ray. Choosing an outpatient clinic or urgent care over an ER will be more cost effective. If the situation is emergent though, please be sure to go to the hospital emergency room.
- Question the purpose of your x-ray: Be sure you know the purpose of the x-ray and that your physician approved the order.
- Shop and compare prices: If your situation is not an emergency, call around to different locations and get their prices for x-rays.
No Surprise Act
The No Surprise Act establishes federal protections to help guard you against surprise out-of-network medical bills received during emergency services at an out-of-network emergency visit or from an out-of-network doctor seen at an in-network hospital without advanced notice.
The act bans providers from billing you more than what you would typically pay for in-network services.
If you receive what you believe is a surprise bill, there are protections and ways to seek help.
How K Health Can Help
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Frequently Asked Questions
K Health has strict sourcing guidelines and relies on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We avoid using tertiary references.
Chest X-Ray. (2022).
Dental X-Rays. (2022).
Hospital Transparency. (2021).
Lumbosacral Spine X-Ray. (2022).
Thoracic Spine X-Ray. (2022).
X-Ray Exam: Foot. (n.d.).
Cervical Spine Series. (2021).