Does Medicare Cover CT Scans?

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Russell Noga
by Russell Noga | Updated November 15th, 2023

Does Medicare Cover CT Scans? IntroImagine a diagnostic tool that can detect internal injuries, locate tumors, and even help diagnose heart disease. This powerful instrument is a CT (computed tomography) scan, a vital tool in modern medicine.

However, navigating the financial aspects of CT scans can be challenging, especially when dealing with Medicare coverage. This article serves as a comprehensive guide to understanding “does Medicare cover CT scans” and managing the associated costs.


Key Takeaways


Understanding Medicare and CT Scan Coverage

Medicare, the U.S. government’s healthcare program for seniors and certain individuals with disabilities, covers medically necessary CT scans ordered by a doctor.

CT scans are used to detect injuries or illnesses in various areas of the body, such as:

  • the head
  • shoulders
  • spine
  • heart
  • abdomen
  • knees
  • chest


Coverage for these scans falls under different parts of Medicare, with Part A covering inpatient hospital stays and skilled nursing facility care, and Part B covering outpatient services, as Medicare pays for these services accordingly.

Recognizing the distinct roles of Medicare parts is key to comprehending how CT scans get covered.

  • Inpatient hospital coverage falls under Medicare Part A
  • Outpatient facility coverage is provided by Medicare Part B
  • For those enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan, coverage is also available, though costs may vary depending on the plan and network.


Inpatient Hospital Coverage (Part A)Inpatient Hospital Coverage (Part A)

Medicare Part A is hospital insurance that covers inpatient hospital care, including CT scans ordered by a doctor during an inpatient hospital stay.

An ‘inpatient hospital stay’ is defined as a formal admission to a hospital for medically necessary care, based on the doctor’s judgment and the individual’s need for hospital care.

Keep in mind that Medicare covers CT scans only during an inpatient stay when a healthcare provider prescribes them for medical treatment at a doctor’s office.


Outpatient Facility Coverage (Part B)Outpatient Facility Coverage (Part B)

Medicare Part B provides coverage for outpatient diagnostic non-laboratory tests, such as CT scans, at participating facilities when ordered by a healthcare professional. The cost of a CT scan under Part B includes the Part B deductible and a 20% coinsurance payment.

Outpatient diagnostic tests such as CT scans are covered by Medicare Part B. The tests must be medically necessary and ordered by a Medicare-approved provider at a doctor’s office or other healthcare facility.

A key detail to remember is that Medicare Part B covers CT scans only when performed in an outpatient setting. If you are admitted to a hospital or require an inpatient stay for a CT scan, Medicare Part A will cover the costs.

Grasping the difference between inpatient and outpatient coverage allows you to make decisions wisely about your healthcare and potential out-of-pocket expenses.


Medicare Advantage Plan Coverage

Medicare Advantage plans are sometimes referred to as Medicare Part C. They are offered by private insurance companies and provide the same benefits as Original Medicare Part A and Part B.

These plans do cover CT scans; however, the costs may fluctuate depending on the plan and network. Many Medicare Advantage plans feature networks, which can result in increased costs if you choose to go out of your plan’s network for a CT scan.

In certain scenarios, the facility’s participation in Medicare does not guarantee out-of-network coverage. In fact, there may be no out-of-network coverage at all.

By law, Medicare Advantage plans must cover all services that Original Medicare does, including Medicare cover CT scans. Nevertheless, comparing various Medicare Advantage plans is necessary to identify the most affordable one for CT scan coverage.

Understanding the role of networks in these plans can help you make informed decisions regarding your healthcare and potential out-of-pocket costs.


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Medigap Plans and CT Scan Costs

Another option to consider for covering CT scan costs is a Medigap plan. Medigap plans, also known as medical insurance, are sometimes referred to as Medicare Supplement plans. They are designed to help cover the costs not included in Original Medicare.

While you cannot have a Medigap plan if you are enrolled in Medicare Advantage, Medigap plans can be beneficial for those with Original Medicare who want to minimize out-of-pocket expenses related to CT scans.


What Medigap CoversWhat Medigap Covers

Medigap plans serve as supplemental insurance to cover expenses not included in Original Medicare, such as deductibles and coinsurance. The extent of Medigap coverage for CT scans varies depending on the specific plan.

Generally, Original Medicare will cover most expenses related to a CT scan, and Medigap policies may help cover the remaining costs, such as the Part B deductible and coinsurance. However, it is important to note that Medigap does not cover the cost of contrast dyes used in CT scans.


Choosing the Right Medigap Plan

When selecting a Medigap plan, it is imperative to consider factors such as monthly premiums, coverage, and network. There are ten standardized Medigap plans labeled A, B, C, D, F, G, K, L, M, and N, each offering distinct benefits and coverage.

By comparing these plans and their respective benefits, you can determine the most suitable plan for your needs and potentially reduce your out-of-pocket expenses for CT scans.


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The CT Scan Process: What to Expect

A CT scan is a painless procedure that provides detailed images of the body to help diagnose various conditions.

The purpose of a CT scan is to:The CT Scan Process: What to Expect

  • Give physicians a visual representation to confirm a diagnosis
  • Devise a treatment plan
  • Observe an ongoing condition
  • Suggest further testing.


Being aware of the CT scan process can help lessen anxiety and ensure a seamless procedure.


Preparing for a CT Scan

Before a CT scan, you may be asked several medical history questions, such as:

  • Prior reactions to contrast agents
  • Allergies to medications or other substances
  • Current medications being taken
  • Any history of kidney problems or diabetes
  • Any history of heart disease or other medical conditions
  • Prior surgeries or medical procedures
  • Any current symptoms or concerns related to the area being scanned


You might also be advised to avoid eating or drinking for a specified time before the scan, contingent on the type of scan being conducted.

Appropriate attire for a CT scan includes:

  • Loose and comfortable clothing without metal components, such as zippers, clasps, or buttons
  • It may be possible to wear your own underwear for some scans, but it is advisable to check with the imaging center beforehand
  • Refrain from wearing jewelry during the scan, and if necessary, wear a gown provided by the imaging center
  • Metal objects, such as jewelry, eyeglasses, dentures, and hearing aids, should be removed before the scan


During the CT Scan

During the CT scan, you will:

  • Lie still on a table that slides through a large tunnel while images are taken
  • The procedure typically lasts only a few minutes
  • Some noise may be present during the scan, due to the movement of the table and any adjustments made to obtain a better view.


Staying still during the scan is crucial to prevent image blurring and decreased accuracy. Sedation can be used during a CT scan if necessary, depending on the patient’s requirements.

During the CT Scan

Preventive CT Scans and Medicare Coverage

Medicare covers preventive CT scans for eligible individuals, such as lung cancer screenings for high-risk patients. Preventive CT scans can help detect potential health issues early, allowing for timely intervention and treatment.

Grasping the eligibility criteria for preventive CT scans under Medicare allows you to benefit from these potentially life-saving services.


Eligibility Criteria for Preventive CT Scans

Eligibility criteria for preventive CT scans depend on factors like age, risk factors, and medical history.

For example, Medicare covers lung cancer screenings with low-dose CT scans once a year for individuals between the ages of 50 and 77 who meet specific criteria, such as having a history of heavy smoking and being asymptomatic (no signs or symptoms of lung cancer).

Consulting with your healthcare provider is necessary to determine if you qualify for preventive CT scans covered by Medicare.


Prescription Drugs and CT Scans

Prescription drugs for CT scans, such as contrast agents or anti-anxiety medications, may be covered under Medicare Part D, which provides coverage for prescription drugs used for outpatient care.

Comprehending the scope of Medicare Part D coverage assists in managing the costs linked with these medications.


Medications for Contrast or Anxiety

Medicare Part D covers prescription drugs for outpatient care, including medications used during CT scans, such as gastrointestinal contrast agents, intravenous contrast agents, and diagnostic imaging agents. Additionally, Medicare Part D may provide financial assistance for anti-anxiety medication used during MRI scans.

It is important to consult with your healthcare provider and Medicare plan to determine the extent of coverage for medications associated with CT scans.

Costs Associated with CT Scans

CT scan costs can vary depending on factors like location, provider, and insurance plan. The average cost of a CT scan in the United States can range from $270 to $5,000, depending on the facility.

Understanding the factors influencing CT scan costs enables you to make wise decisions while seeking diagnostic services.


Out-of-Pocket ExpensesOut-of-Pocket Expenses

Out-of-pocket expenses for CT scans may include deductibles, coinsurance, and copayments. For example, under Medicare Part B, the usual co-payment for a CT scan is 20% of the Medicare-approved amount.

Prior to Medicare covering the CT scan, you must satisfy the annual Part B deductible, which is $240 in 2024.

Being aware of the out-of-pocket expenses linked with CT scans can assist you in planning and managing your healthcare costs.


Ways to Reduce Costs

There are several strategies to reduce medical costs under Medicare, including:

  • Adjusting payments to Medicare Advantage plans
  • Exploring Medicare-approved health plans
  • Utilizing state programs
  • Being aware of costs
  • Improving coverage for certain services


One way to reduce out-of-pocket expenses for CT scans is to use in-network providers, as Medicare may not cover the cost or a higher percentage of the expenses may be due if an out-of-network provider is used.

Another way to reduce expenses for CT scans is by comparing Medicare Advantage plans and selecting one that provides lower copayments or coinsurance for the scan. Additionally, exploring Medigap plan options can help you find supplemental insurance coverage that minimizes your out-of-pocket expenses for diagnostic tests like CT scans.

Considering these strategies allows you to make wise healthcare decisions and potentially cut down your medical expenses.

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Navigating the world of Medicare coverage for CT scans can be complex, but understanding the different Medicare parts and their coverage, as well as Medigap and Medicare Advantage plans, can help you make informed decisions about your healthcare.

By considering factors like in-network providers, comparing plans, and exploring supplemental insurance options, you can potentially reduce your out-of-pocket expenses and ensure access to vital diagnostic services.

Remember, knowledge is power—equip yourself with the information necessary to make the best decisions for your health and well-being.

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Frequently Asked Questions


  Does Medicare require preauthorization for CT scans?

Yes, Medicare requires prior authorization for a CT scan if the provider does not accept Medicare assignment or is an out-of-network doctor.


  Why are CT scans not covered by insurance?

Since insurance coverage for CT scans depends on several factors and it is only provided when the scan is deemed medically necessary, most insurance companies do not cover them.


  What is the difference between a CT scan and a LDCT scan?

A CT scan is an invasive procedure with a higher radiation dose than a LDCT scan, which is a screening test that takes less time and has fewer associated risks.


  Does medicare cover mri?

Medicare Part B typically covers medically necessary MRIs, as long as certain requirements are met. Beneficiaries will need to pay their annual deductible before Medicare pays its part of the cost, which is 80% of the Medicare-approved amount.


  Can Medigap plans help cover CT scan costs?

Yes, Medigap plans can help cover costs related to CT scans such as deductibles and coinsurance, although coverage levels and out-of-pocket costs vary depending on the plan.

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