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What is a co-pay?

Dr. Michael Roizen, MD
Internal Medicine

The co-pay (co-payment) is a fixed dollar amount that you pay for medical services. Imagine going to your favorite eatery and no matter what you order -- the grilled salmon, pan-seared tofu or a yogurt parfait with walnuts -- you pay only a set portion of the bill. Perhaps you have to pay $20 each time you eat at this restaurant even though your food and the cost may vary.

That’s the way your health insurance co-pay works. Each time you visit your doctor, you are required to pay this amount whether you are well or sick. You typically also have to shell out a co-pay for these services too:

- lab work

- medical tests

- medical treatments

- prescription drugs

- hospitalization

- outpatient services

The cost of your co-pay can be as inexpensive as something on sale at Wal-Mart or as pricey as something you’d buy at Saks Fifth Avenue. It all depends on what type of health insurance you have. However, over a period of time, your co-pay can accrue and help to meet the cost of your health insurance deductible (the amount of money you need to cough up before your insurance company starts covering their share of the bill or reducing your co-pays).

To find out more about your co-pay, contact your health plan directly. Hopefully they’ll answer your question (without leaving you on hold all day!).

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.