The cost of co-pays

A friend told me about her really good pediatrician whose practice is really badly run. Appointments get mixed up, requests for referral authorizations go unanswered and so on. She recently received bills for her three kids going back two years. The bills were small, ranging from $7 to $30 per kid for unpaid co-pays.

A cover letter explained that the office had hired an auditor to go through the records and find problems; it asked that co-pays be paid at the time of visit in order to reduce administrative costs from sending small bills. I told the mom it was a good idea to pay the co-pays when she visits, so the poor ped doesn’t have to struggle even harder to make ends meet. I feel badly for the guy, even if he’s brought a lot of this on himself.
She told me this experience actually made her less inclined to pay the co-pay at the time of appointment. After all the office has demonstrated its inability to track what it’s billed and collected. Although she paid what was requested on the new bill, for all she knows she had already made payment at the time of appointment. She’d rather wait to receive the bills and pay them as they come in.

On the other hand, she could also make sure to pay at the window every time. That way she could be confident that if a co-pay bill came it had already been paid. She could save the little cash receipts they hand out, too, though that is a bit of a burden on a mom whose already juggling 3!

February 14, 2007

One thought on “The cost of co-pays”

  1. David, I see what you’re describing here as one example of a 50 year transitional period for physicians.

    FROM: medical care is a cottage industry; based on personal knowledge and trust; a local, barter based economy

    TO: medical care is like any other business

    Is this good or bad? That’s a different discussion.

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