The out-of-pocket costs of X-rays, CT scans across 3 states: 4 things to know

New research reveals that the out-of-pocket cost for a standard chest X-ray, CT scan or ultrasound can widely vary, depending on where the imaging is done, according to a HealthDay report.

The research was conducted by Mindy Yang Licurse, MD, a diagnostic radiology resident with Philadelphia-based University of Pennsylvania Health System, and study co-author William Boonn, MD, also with the health system. They recently presented their findings at the American College of Radiology in Washington, D.C.

Here are four things to know about the research.

1. The study looked at three commonly ordered exams: so-called two-view chest X-rays; CT scans of the abdomen/pelvis with contrast; and pelvic ultrasounds in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware.

2. Researchers found that across hospitals and imaging centers in these three states, X-ray costs varied from a low of $41 to a high of $285, according to HealthDay. CT scan costs ranged from $437 to $2,239, while ultrasounds went from $150 to $592, according to the study.

3. The research revealed that pricing for all procedures, when provided, consistently was higher at hospitals compared to imaging centers. For example, HealthDay notes, the average hospital price for an X-ray was $140, compared with $76 at an imaging center. Similarly, average CT scan and ultrasound prices were $1,146 and $442, respectively, at hospitals, compared with $586 and $263, respectively, at independent facilities, the study found, according to HealthDay.

4. Commenting on the findings, Dr. Licurse said price transparency could contribute to containment of health costs "by improving cost awareness among both physicians as well as patient consumers, possibly leading to lowering of prices for the sake of remaining competitive," according to HealthDay. However, she suggested that others have warned consumer-shopping may, however, lead to decreased quality of exams to account for lower pricing, so "the appropriate balance" is the goal.

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