Hospitals don't diagnose symptoms for free. Health care providers bill private insurance companies, Medicare and Medicaid according to billing codes or fees-for-service, according to AARP and Medicaid, respectively. Insurance companies often cover diagnostic or routine services, states Medical Mutual of Ohio.
While hospitals generally don't diagnose symptoms free of charge, some health care insurance plans completely absorb the charges for many preventative procedures at no cost to the patient, according to Medical Mutual. Preventative services are exams conducted to prevent possible illness prior to the appearance of symptoms.
Providers determine charges for routine care or exams based on why the service is being provided. For example, if a 55-year-old woman with no breast cancer symptoms gets a mammogram, it is considered preventative, according to Medical Mutual. However, the same exam for the same woman is considered diagnostic if it comes after she has noticed lumps in her breast. Although the tests are identical, the reason for the tests dictate if the service is considered preventative and possibly free to the patient.