These are nominal amounts you pay each time you use a service, and may be a flat rate or a percentage.
They should be small enough that they won't prevent a very ill person from getting care, but large enough to prevent people from dropping in to the doctor every week and walking out with $200 in prescriptions and $1500 in referrals. For that reason, your health plan is pretty insistent that your doctor collects them.
The percentage co-pays can be a big problem if you need anything really expensive, and after all, really expensive stuff is the reason why you got the insurance in the first place. The biggest problem with flat-rate co-pays is that if you are ill and need repeated visits, they can start to add up. If that is a problem, ask your doctor if she would be willing to consider several visits for the same problem (like coming in to the office several times until your pneumonia clears up) under a single co-payment.
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©2000 Eileen K. Carpenter, MD