Out-of-Pocket Costs

Updated: Nov 8, 2023
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Out-of-pocket costs refer to the expenses that policyholders pay for medical services without reimbursement from their insurance provider or employer. These expenses can include deductibles, copays, and co-insurance and they play a crucial role in determining the overall cost of an insurance plan.

  • Out-of-pocket costs are direct costs that policyholders pay for medical services without reimbursement from their insurance provider or employer.
  • Copays, co-insurance and deductibles are out-of-pocket costs the policyholder is responsible for and count towards their plan's annual out-of-pocket maximum.
  • An out-of-pocket maximum is the annual limit on a policyholder's out-of-pocket expenses.
  • Health insurance providers cover 100% of covered medical expenses once the policyholder reaches their annual out-of-pocket maximum.

Out-of-Pocket Costs in Health Insurance

In the cost-sharing structure between the health insurance provider and the policyholder, out-of-pocket costs like deductibles, copays, and co-insurance each serve a distinct purpose. The following sections outline different out-of-pocket costs and how they work in health care plans.

Out-of-Pocket Cost


A deductible is the amount policyholders must pay out-of-pocket for medical services before their insurance coverage applies.

If a plan has a $3,000 deductible, the policyholder must pay the first $3,000 of their medical expenses each year they have that plan.


A copay is a fixed amount policyholders pay for specific medical services or prescriptions at the time of service, as set by the insurance plan.

A policy might require a $20 copay for a specialist visit.


Co-insurance is a percentage of the total medical bill that policyholders are responsible for, with the insurance provider covering the rest. It kicks in once the deductible has been met.

If a procedure costs $800 and the plan has 20% co-insurance, the policyholder would pay $160, assuming they have met their deductible for the year.


Your deductible contributes to your plan's out-of-pocket maximum. Once you reach the annual maximum, the insurance covers 100% of eligible medical costs, meaning that you pay no further out-of-pocket costs for the remainder of that year.

A man with a leg cask taking out cash from his wallet and handing it to his doctor.

Out-of-Pocket Costs Example

Scenario: Jane has a health insurance plan with a $500 deductible and a $20 copay for doctor's visits.

In January, Jane visited her doctor for a persistent cough. The visit cost was $100. Jane paid a $20 copay for the visit, while her insurance covered the remaining $80. The copay does not count towards her deductible, so Jane's remaining deductible is still $500.

In this scenario, Jane's out-of-pocket expense is the $20 copay for the doctor's visit. Additional tests, if any, would incur separate charges that might count towards her deductible or be subject to co-insurance.


Navigating the intricacies of out-of-pocket costs can raise numerous questions. We've addressed some of the most common queries to clarify this essential aspect of health insurance further.

Related Content

Enhance your understanding of out-of-pocket costs with a curated selection of related resources.

  • Most Affordable Health Insurance — Explore an analysis of providers offering plans on the federal marketplace and discover which companies offer the most affordable health insurance options.

  • What Is Health Insurance? — Gain a foundational understanding of health insurance, its various types and the government programs available for specific groups. This page provides insights into Medicare, Medicaid, CHIP and insurance options for military members.

  • Compare Health Insurance Quotes — Learn about the benefits of obtaining health insurance coverage through your employer, the largest source of health insurance for most Americans. This page emphasizes the cost-effectiveness and potential limitations of employer-provided health insurance.

About Nathan Paulus

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Nathan Paulus is the director of content marketing at MoneyGeek. Nathan has been creating content for nearly 10 years and is particularly engaged in personal finance, investing, and property management. He holds a B.A. in English from the University of St. Thomas Houston.