Does Medicare Cover CT Scans?

In this article...
  • CT scans are imaging tests that help doctors diagnose and treat diseases. Read on to learn if Medicare covers CT scans and how much this test costs out of pocket.

Doctors often order imaging tests such as computed tomography (CT) scans to help diagnose and treat health conditions. If your physician is recommending that you have one, you're likely concerned about cost and asking, "Does Medicare cover CT scans?" The good news is, as long as your doctor has ordered the test, your CT scan should be covered by Medicare.

Does Medicare Cover CT Scans?

Medicare covers CT scans through Part B medical insurance. It's considered a diagnostic non-laboratory test as long as your physician considers it medically necessary. The test must be ordered by a health care provider as part of diagnosing and treating a health condition.

Medicare pays for 80% of the Medicare-approved cost if you've met the Part B deductible for the year. In 2021, the deductible is $203.

Medicare covers CT scans regardless of whether you receive your health care coverage through Original Medicare or a plan such as Medicare Advantage.

What Is a CT Scan Used For?

CT scans are imaging tests that provide a cross-sectional look at organs and tissues. They offer more detail than conventional X-rays and are useful for giving physicians information to help diagnose and treat:

  • Cancer
  • Circulatory diseases
  • Spinal conditions
  • Kidney and bladder stones
  • Inflammatory diseases
  • Head injuries
  • Brain function
  • Tumors and lesions
  • Blood clots
  • Cardiovascular diseases
  • Broken bones
  • Eroded joints
  • Internal bleeding

In 2019, almost 279 CT scans were performed per 1,000 people in the United States.

How a CT Scan Works

A CT scan is a painless, noninvasive imaging test. You're asked to lie on a padded, motorized table that slides through the round opening of an X-ray machine. The X-ray beam rotates continuously around the opening to take images of your body from different angles as the table moves through. In some CT machines, the table may stay still and the scanner moves over your body.

Many different images are captured during the scan and then reconstructed by computer to give detailed, cross-sectional views of organs and tissues.

What to Expect During a CT Scan

CT scans are usually performed on an outpatient basis.

Once you've removed jewelry and clothing that may interfere with the exam, you're asked to wear a gown and get positioned on a narrow, padded table. The technician may ask you to lie on your back, side or stomach, depending on the part of the body being scanned. You may also be given a contrasting dye through an IV to help make the images clearer. Some dyes may be taken orally.

As the machine scans your body, it makes a whirring or humming noise. The technician may ask you to hold your breath at certain points of the exam.

CT machines are smaller than MRI machines and surround only part of the body. Because they're not enclosed, they generally do not cause claustrophobic feelings. It takes a few minutes to half an hour to complete a CT scan.

Be sure to discuss any anxieties or concerns about your CT scan directly with your health care provider.