A co-payment, or co-pay pertains only to a managed care plan (i.e. HMO, EPO, etc.). The co-pay is the managed care cost share obligation.* According to managed care rules, the patient cannot see the doctor until they make their co-payment. Managed care is governed by federal law and is not open to interpretation; to "write-off" a co-pay or to allow a patient to see the doctor without collecting the co-pay is a violation of federal law.
Part of the "Understanding Insurance" series.