“How Much Does A Heart Valve Echocardiogram Cost?” Asks Ken

Ken just sent me a financial question about the cost of an echocardiogram. He writes, “Adam – A few years back, I was diagnosed with moderate mitral valve regurgitation. Since then, I lost my job and my health insurance. Lately, I’ve experienced shortness of breath and fatigue. Do you know how much a heart valve echocardiogram costs? I’m nervous and curious to see if my mitral valve prolapse has gotten worse? Thanks, Ken”

Echocardiogram Of The Heart

To help Ken, I just asked Robyn, my wife, for our medical statements from December — which is when I had my last echocardiogram.

As shown below, we found a statement from Torrance Memorial Hospital for the ultrasound. Similar to most medical bills, it was a tad confusing.

Patient Echocardiogram Bill

The “Total Charges Billed” for the echocardiogram were $3,405.60. Thankfully, I was not responsible to pay that entire amount. You will notice an “Account Adjustment” of $2,593.73. The “Account Adjustment” reflects the pre-negotiated, contracted discount that my insurance company passes onto me. So, my total out-of-pocket payment was $811.87…. Uggh!

Similar to Ken, I have also needed an echocardiogram when I was without health insurance. In that situation, I contacted a local cardiologist and negotiated the fee directly with his office. The total for that echocardiogram was about $900… Uggh again!

Critical Note: While expensive, echocardiograms are the benchmark for heart valve diagnosis and prognosis. That said, I encourage Ken (or anyone for that matter) to monitor your valvular defect with regular ultrasounds. As we have learned, the alternative can be tragic.

I hope this helps us all learn more about echocardiogram costs before-or-after heart valve surgery.

Keep on tickin!

Adam Pick
Written by Adam Pick

Adam Pick is a patient, author of The Patient's Guide To Heart Valve Surgery and the founder of HeartValveSurgery.com.

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  • Patricia Shabel

    Ken, I don’t know where you live, but many times, there are free resources for health care. I live in Los Angeles, and I have gone to the Saban Los Angeles Free Clinic, which offers free health care and partners with Cedars Sinai, a large hospital here. I have been able to get check ups, such as EKGs and while I haven’t gotten an EEG, I know I can through them.

    It depends where you live and what resources there are in your city, but I believe most cities do have the same type of resource.

  • Midge

    Ken, a few years back my husband needed an extensive surgery and we did not have insurance. We found out that the answer is to contact every office involved (in our case, the hospital, the anesthesiologist, each individual doctor involved, the lab doing the pre surgery testing, etc.). Tell them you are without insurance and what kind of discount can they give you if your prepay them? This took alot of time in our case, but it was well work it. Probably paid only 30-40% of normal rates. DO NOT BE AFRAID TO ASK!!! In the end we even got a refund from the hospital…which was a total surprise. Also, by offering to prepay for a procedures, they were guaranteed payment without any collection involved. Can’t give you any rates for your procedure, but info might be helpful if you need more. Also, when you can contact more than one source of service.

    Good luck!
    Midge

  • Tim Mangum

    I do have health insurance and have had numerous echos and I am getting ready to have another cardiac MRI at Duke University Medical Center. In March, 2010, I had an echo done at Duke and they billed the insurance $2,502 and the insurance paid $1,210.37 and the hospital ate the difference because it was done in the doctors office but yet billed through the hospital and they didn’t tell me, etc., etc.

    I had another echo (post-op) in June, 2010, at my local cardiologist office and they billed the insurance $779 and the insurance paid $430.69 and I paid my $35 co-pay. To be honest, there was no difference in the echo other than the machines and the people doing it so I really don’t understand the difference in the costs other than Duke has more people to pay.

    Like others have said, ask around about clinics in your area. Talk to the doctors and see what they can do to help a patient out. You may also want to contact some of the teaching hospitals and see if they have a program where you could come in for a student to do an echo, etc. Lastly, if there is a hospital in your community that is part of a denomination (ex. Baptist, Methodist, etc.) you could possibly check with them as I know our local Baptist Hospital has a special fund to pay for care for patients that cannot pay.

    Good luck!

  • Robin Hirsch

    One of the great tragedies of our health care system is the lack of access to procedures like echos. They are simple enough to do, and should be mandatory for everyone over the age of 50, symptoms or not. Think of the lives that could be saved, and the ultimate savings in medical costs that would come from such preventative care. How many people die or suffer debilitating heart attacks each year from a heart condition that would have been easily diagnosed with an echo? Everyone needs to know that your yearly physical, and EKG, is meaningless. The EKG is valid if you are in the middle of a heart attack or have some sort of electrical issue in your heart. Mine was completely normal, and I had severe aortic stenosis. So tell everyone you know to get an echo. It is worth the money.

  • Duane Hunt

    I just had an echocardiogram done on 2/21/11 at my local clinic here in central Florida. The billed amount to UnitedHealthcare was $793.89. The negotiated discounted amount with UHC was $341.33, which was my out-of-pocket cost and applied to my high deductible. Looks like there is a huge variation in amounts out there. But if you’ve got heart issues, you’ve got to have ECHOs!

  • Ross

    Like Tim above, I too had a Cardiac MRI at Duke this past January. This consisted of the procedure itself and a follow-up appointment with the surgeon who provided me with the results (which were good!). There were 7 separate charges that resulted from these two activities that totaled $ 6789 before they were automatically reduced to $ 2996 for the insurance company. Of this I paid $ 1400 ‘out of pocket’. Unfortunately it’s recommended that I have this exam once per year to keep an eye on my ascending aortic graft so I’ll be continuing to have this large expense.

  • Shari Shoufler

    Ken,
    Be up front with your cardiologist about your circumstances. Most medical practices are willing to work with uninsured patients to help them manage the costs, or can recommend a facility or program (such as a hospital clinic) where you can get services for little or no cost.

  • Vivian

    I’ve had echocardiograms in France, at the Georges Pompidou European Hospital. It is a top-notch hospital. If you are looking for an adult congenital heart center, I think the French have one at Necker. The echocardiogram cost me a grand total of $150. (Prices may have risen a bit, since this was in 2006.) The doctor’s appointment fee was an additional $50. (That was the fee I paid as someone NOT insured by the French health insurance scheme.) The doctors spoke English.

    So, for the cost of an echo in the US, you can get one in France and at least get a vacation out of it.

  • Jeff

    My Cardiologist charges me $435.00 for an echocardiogram if I pay him myself and don’t use my insurance.

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