Charges for x-ray, CT have soared

November 5, 2004

A leading academic center reports the following technical charges for two representative radiology procedures in 1979 and in 2004. These are technical charges only and do not include professional charges.

1979:

Chest x-ray, two views: $19

CT head without contrast: $117.50

2004:

Chest x-ray, 2 views: $74.75

CT head without contrast: $504

Collections from Medicare and managed care may average 50% to 60% of posted charges today. In 1979, collections were in the 80% to 90% range.

For reference, the urban consumer price index in 1979 was 72.6, and in July 2004 it was 189.4, representing a relative price increase of 2.6 over the 25-year interval. By that standard, in today's dollars the $19 CXR should cost $49.60 and the $117.50 head CT should cost $306.70. These figures confirm that healthcare costs have significantly outpaced the standard consumer price index over the last two decades.