What Is a Copay?

May 27, 2022


A copay or copayment is a fixed cost you pay to cover a covered service under your insurance. You may pay a $20 copay for a visit to the doctor or $10 for generic prescription drugs.

Not all programs have copays. Costs for copays vary from plan to plan. The copays for in-network services and providers are lower than those who use them. They can also be higher for those who go outside the network.

  • Copay: A flat fee, usually $25, is charged for each visit to a provider. The price is paid when you receive service or fill out a prescription.
  • Coinsurance: A percentage of the provider’s bill is paid (like 20%). The provider will bill you once the insurance approves. However, you don’tdon’t pay for services received.

There might be different copays for certain services, such as the ones listed below:

  • Visit your primary care physician.
  • Visit the office to meet with a specialist.
  • Urgent care visit.
  • Emergency room visit.
  • Visit a physical therapist. Generic prescription drug.
  • Brand-name drug.

Copay vs. deductible

Your annual deductible is the amount you pay towards covered medical services before your insurance begins paying its share. If your deductible is $1500, you will need to pay $1500 out-of-pocket for covered medical care before your insurance starts covering it.


Copays may be required for certain services. Although the copays may not count towards your deductible, they can still count towards your maximum out-of-pocket limit. The maximum out-of-pocket limit is the amount you would have to pay for covered medical services in a single year.

What’s a typical copay?

The type of service you receive will affect the cost of your copay. For a visit with your primary care physician, you may only pay $10, and for an emergency room visit, you could spend up to $300.

However, copays in health plans have declined in popularity as more programs opt for a model that includes CoinsuranceCoinsurance and deductible. The copayments account for a smaller portion of cost-sharing than the deductibles.

Does health insurance require a copay?


Many health insurance plans require that certain preventive services are covered without copays or CoinsuranceCoinsurance. The following services are included in this list:

  • Annual checkups.
  • Blood pressure screening.
  • Immunizations.
  • Depression screening.
  • HIV screening.
  • Support and counseling for breastfeeding.
  • Cervical cancer screening.
  • Well-woman visits.
  • Well-child visits.

Review your policy to determine which services require a copay.

What health insurance plans include copays?

HMO plans are insurance companies that have agreements with healthcare providers, which allow them to pay fixed fees for essential health services. HMOs have higher copays than managed care plans like HMOs. It is easier to forecast overall costs and offer a health insurance copay system for health insurance customers.

Some PPO plans and other insurance plans may include copays in the cost-sharing arrangements.

How do copays affect insurance premiums?

A premium is an amount you pay for insurance policies. Plans with high premiums will have lower copays in most cases. Plans with low premiums tend to have higher copays.


How do Deductibles and Copays Impact Each Other?

A deductible is an amount that an insured party pays out of pocket before insurance companies pay a claim. If you have a $5,000 medical deductible, you will pay the entire amount of your medical expenses up to the $5,000 limit. Your insurance company will pay the cost, less your copay and CoinsuranceCoinsurance.

How do Copays and Coinsurance work together?

Many policyholders with health insurance pay CoinsuranceCoinsurance as an additional out-of-pocket expense. Coinsurance is not a fixed amount like copays. Instead, it is a percentage of the total visit cost. Some cases may see a copay or CoinsuranceCoinsurance being paid for the same appointment.

Imagine getting a filling at a dentist. Your insurance company charges $20 for each dental appointment and a 20% coinsurance fee on fillings. You pay a $20 copay for every $200 spent at the dentist. There is $40 coinsurance to make the total $60.


What are my other out-of-pocket costs?

You can also expect to pay copays and annual deductibles or coinsurances.

If you decide to use an out-of-network provider to receive healthcare services, you may have lower or no coverage. This could lead to higher copays or the need to pay the total price for your care. You will usually have to pay more from your pocket to visit that provider.

How do I pay the copay?

A copay is required at the time you receive service. You do not have to pay copays if you exceed your deductible. Once you reach your out-of-pocket maximum, your copays will end.

What is the maximum amount I can spend on my own?

There is a cap on the amount you can spend out-of-pocket each year to cover medical expenses.

Suppose you have a plan with an out-of-pocket maximum of $6.500; you will no longer have to pay out of pocket for covered care during the remainder of the year. This includes copays and coinsurances.

Copay example

This is an example of copays:

Mary sees her primary care physician discuss her flu symptoms. Mary pays $25 to the receptionist upon her arrival for her appointment. Mary’sMary’s plan covers a $25 copay.

Mary’sMary’s doctor refers Mary to the laboratory to draw blood during her office visit. Mary’sMary’s $25 copay does not cover lab work, so she will need to pay additional fees:

  • Mary will be charged for lab services if she fails to meet her deductible. Mary’sMary’s deductible is also affected by her health plan.
  • Mary is responsible for paying a portion of the cost (known CoinsuranceCoinsurance) for lab work. Her health plan covers the remainder.