Report: Adjusting the prices of common diagnostic tests could save more than $18 billion

May 29, 2019
Medicare Web

Wide variation in the cost of common diagnostic tests significantly contributes to healthcare cost inflation, according to a recent UnitedHealth report.

Researchers analyzed UnitedHealth’s 2017 data on prices and spending for the following diagnostic tests:

  • CT scans
  • Mammography exams
  • Microscopic examinations
  • MRIs
  • Pathology tests
  • Radioisotope scans
  • Ultrasounds


In 2017, UnitedHealth plans and members spent $37.4 billion on these seven tests. Among this group of tests, price variation was generally extreme. For example, the price of an echocardiogram ranged from $210 to $1,830. More than half of echocardiograms cost more than $480.

The report proposes that if prices for services were adjusted toward the lower end of the price scale, patients would see significant savings. If, for example, the price range for an echocardiogram was narrowed to $210–$390, it would achieve in $970 million in savings. If this method was applied across all seven of the services in the report, it would result in $18.5 billion in savings, according to the report.

As healthcare costs continue to rise, industry stakeholders must work together to create practical solutions that preserve the quality of care, ensure optimal patient outcomes, and manage costs. Spending on healthcare in the U.S. is projected to reach $6 trillion in 2026, almost 20% of the gross domestic product, HealthLeaders reported. The U.S. spends approximately twice as much on healthcare as any other industrialized nation.

Related Topics: 
Billing and reimbursement