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Opinion 6.12 - Forgiveness or Waiver of Insurance Copayments

Under the terms of many health insurance policies or programs, patients are made more conscious of the cost of their medical care through copayments. By imposing copayments for office visits and other medical services, insurers hope to discourage unnecessary health care. In some cases, financial hardship may deter patients from seeking necessary care if they would be responsible for a copayment for the care. Physicians commonly forgive or waive copayments to facilitate patient access to needed medical care. When a copayment is a barrier to needed care because of financial hardship, physicians should forgive or waive the copayment.

A number of clinics have advertised their willingness to provide detailed medical evaluations and accept the insurer’s payment but waive the copayment for all patients. Cases have been reported in which some of these clinics have conducted excessive and unnecessary medical testing while certifying to insurers that the testing is medically necessary. Such fraudulent activity exacerbates the high cost of health care, violates Opinion 2.19, "Unnecessary Services," and is unethical.

Physicians should be aware that forgiveness or waiver of copayments may violate the policies of some insurers, both public and private; other insurers may permit forgiveness or waiver if they are aware of the reasons for the forgiveness or waiver. Routine forgiveness or waiver of copayments may constitute fraud under state and federal law. Physicians should ensure that their policies on copayments are consistent with applicable law and with the requirements of their agreements with insurers. (II)

Issued June 1993