What is a health insurance policy’s variable copay mean?

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Asked April 22, 2014

1 Answer

The simple explanation is that variable copay is the portion of a covered visit you have to pay out of pocket. The cost varies by provider or location, so you might pay a different cost for nearly identical treatment.

In most cases, copay varies by location more than any other reason. For example, a procedure performed in your doctor's office may be the standard cost, but you will pay more for the same treatment in a hospital or outpatient center. This is because care centers often charge what amounts to administrative costs to the treatment, affecting the amount you have to pay without changing the percentage of costs your copay represents.

While you cannot eliminate copays, you can eliminate the variable costs. Find out where your doctor practices and then check the costs for the procedure at each location. If your insurance company pays the same rate for different locations but the copay changes, you will be able to identify where your costs are higher and avoid treatment at that facility. You may have to talk to your doctor to work out scheduling at a different location, but the savings may be worth the delay, if possible.

If your health insurance plan uses variable copays, your only defense is to find out which locations will cost you more, and avoid them. You could try to negotiate with the care provider, but there is no guarantee that doing so will help. If changing insurance providers is an option that may be the only way to get away from paying variable copays, but unless the costs are prohibitive, doing so may not be worth the hassle.

If you do choose to shop for a new provider, start with a free online health insurance quote. This website will allow you to fill in a single form and receive multiple quotes for coverage tailored to your specific needs. You may have to contact the companies separately to determine whether use a variable copay system or not.

Answered April 22, 2014 by Anonymous

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