Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Co-pay Check-up

Paying attention to doctor co-pays is very important. It is likely that one's health insurance company does not charge co-pays for annual check-up, or preventive care visits, but the doctor's office deals with so many different types of plans, that one may end up being charged for a co-pay she does not owe. Billing errors are also quite common, like one that I dealt with last week.

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On Christmas I had to go to an urgent care facility near me because my doctor was clearly unavailable. My insurance card listed my co-pay for urgent care as $25, which I paid that day. So I was quite surprised by a bill I received last week stating that my co-pay should have been $45, and I owed $20 to the urgent care facility. I called my health insurance company, and they realized it was a billing error, and I did not owe anything more than I had already paid. They told me they would reissue the bill to the urgent care facility, I made a quick call to the facility to let them know why I was not paying the bill, and everything was resolved.

While I was on the phone with my health insurance company, I also asked about co-pays for annual preventive care visits. I was told that although my card did not say so, my plan did cover co-pays for annual visits to both my general practitioner and my OB/GYN. I had not checked on this before, so for the last four years, I had been paying $25 and $45, respectively, in annual check-up visit co-pays. That's $280 I spent that I never owed.

I do not blame the doctors or their offices for these charges: they deal with too many plans for too many patients to be expected to know the policies for each patient. It is my responsibility to know this, and when I went for an annual visit this week, the office did not ask twice when I told them there was no co-pay.

What is the lesson I learned from this? One must always make the time to place a call to her healthcare insurance company about any billing question. It may not be an urgent matter, but it is always fiscally important to not pay bills one does not actually owe.

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