Diagnostic imaging and clinical laboratory fees can be exorbitant when delivered by insurance-based or hospital-affiliated providers.

Your health care provider may make a recommendation for a provider, but where you schedule your appointment is entirely up to you. There are some national private pay providers for lab services, but imaging centers that use this payment method tend to be specific to a city or region.

During my late husband’s long illness, I was never offered an option other than the hospital systems’ imaging center and lab that his doctor favored. Finally, I did a web search when I couldn’t afford $980 for a chest CT Scan at the hospital and found a great private pay center close to my home. I was charged $150 for the scan, which used state-of-the-art minimal radiation equipment. This price included a review of thes resuts by a board certified radiologist. The review alone probably would have cost an additional $350 through the hospital center. I paid around 83 percent less with no loss in quality and was able to get my late husband the scan he needed.

A quick web search should point you to providers in your area. I used the search term “affordable private pay medical imaging (or clinical lab) options” with good results. Variations on that theme also worked well. In addition to cheaper prices overall, some of these providers may also offer financing options.

Laboratory Tests and Services

Typically, pricing is based on a large-volume at the national level and kept low by not accepting any form of insurance. For patients with a high co-pay, you may be able to submit the bill to your insurer for reimbursement.

Depending on the lab, your order is placed online or by phone, and you will be expected to pay up front. The patient will be directed to a local lab where the specimen will be collected and tested. Most results are available with 24 to 36 hours. However, some tests can take between one and two weeks. Results will be sent to the patient and/or the designated healthcare provider.


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Providers such as DirectLabs, Request A Test, and Accu Reference have locations either nationwide or in multiple states. It is likely that there are additional options near you that operate on a local or regional scale as well. Patients can opt to use this payment method for blood testing, urinalysis (urine testing), sputum cultures (to diagnosis illnesses like pneumonia), and many other kinds of tests of tissues and bodily fluids that can help detect causes of illness.

Diagnostic Imaging Centers

Imaging centers also keep prices low by not accepting any form of insurance. Many labs do not require a doctor’s order or referral, but this is not the case for imaging. The imaging center you select will provide you with a fax number your physician can use to send their order for services like MRIs, X-rays, PET Scans, ultrasounds and ECGs (EKGs). Be sure to check that their services are accredited by the American College of Radiology (ACR).

One national organization called We Care Medical Mall refers patients to the cheapest imaging center nearby for a relatively small fee.