Shortly after I crossed the border from Manitoba into North Dakota on Saturday morning, I saw a major billboard beside Interstate 29 that said:

MRIs, CT scans.

Don’t wait.

It then gave the name of a company in Grafton, North Dakota. This was clearly aimed at Canadians, especially Manitobans, who sometimes must wait weeks or even months for their MRI or CT scan.

I wish I had pulled over to take a picture. This billboard helped me maintain my smile.

But here’s what I found on the web, from a firm called Unity Medical Center. (This might not be the firm that advertised.)


It is our pleasure to offer you state-of-the-art medical care here at Unity Medical Center in Grafton, North Dakota. One of the areas we specialize in is Diagnostic Imaging.

Currently, we offer MRI, CT, Ultrasound, Mammography, Dexa-scan and X-ray.

We pride ourselves on keeping wait times to a minimum, many tests can be performed within 24 hours of the initial call and nearly all tests can be performed within one week – MRIs included.

We have performed hundreds of tests for Canadian patients over the years and we pride ourselves on providing exceptional customer service.

The drive from Winnipeg to Grafton is 2 hours each way. We understand the wait times in Manitoba are quite long for these types of tests.

We encourage you to contact us and discuss this option with your physician and learn how quickly you can get this test completed and move on the the next phase of your treatment. The longer you wait the longer the rehabilitation process.

And here’s a news release from the Canadian Medical Association in 1997 about what appeared to be a relatively newly provided service. And here were the prices at the time:

Patients who go there will be paying from their own pocket. Although travel time isn’t onerous, the cost may deter some visitors. A CT scan costs between (US)$385 and $425, while the bill for an MRI is between (US)$400 and $690. An ultrasound costs from (US)$115 to $300.

What I like about this, besides the obvious–a freer market in health care–is that patients were paying and are paying out of their own pockets and so, as a health economist, I get a read on what prices might be like if Americans were not overinsured.


Check here for even lower prices (inflation-adjusted) than in 1997. Although the trip to Fargo is an extra 65 minutes.