Out-of-pocket maximum (OOPM) is the most you have to pay for covered medical services in a plan year.
What is out-of-pocket maximum?
After you spend this maximum amount on deductibles, copayments, and coinsurance, your health plan pays 100% of the costs of healthcare services for the rest of the year.
♦ One good benefit of the Affordable Care Act is that after 2014 copays count toward the out-of-pocket maximum.
→ A bad point written into the ACA was a provision to allow insurers to raise deductibles. And they have raised them to levels most people never experience through employer sponsored plans.
This policy should have been fixed but so far nothing has been done because of concerns for program costs. So, insurers continue to push deductibles higher.
Out-of-pocket maximum is not the same as Lifetime Maximum.
♦ Lifetime maximum used to be a maximum amount a plan would pay for your lifetime.
With the passage of the Affordable Care Act insurance companies can no longer set a lifetime maximum.
♦ The out-of-pocket maximum is sometimes referred to as out-of-pocket limit.
It doesn't include your monthly premiums. It also doesn't include anything you may spend for services your plan doesn't cover.
It usually does not include prescription cost.
♦ The maximum out-of-pocket limit for any 2024 Marketplace plan is $9,450 for an individual plan and $18,900 for a family plan.
If you qualify for a Cost-Sharing Reduction (CSR) plan through Obamacare, your maximum out-of-pocket limit is likely to be considerably less.
Example of out-of-pocket maximum with high medical costs
Let's say you need surgery with allowable charges of $20,000 and the following figures apply to your health insurance plan.
• Deductible: $1,300
• Coinsurance: 20%
• Out-of-pocket maximum: $4,400
You pay the first $1,300 of covered medical expenses (your deductible).
That leaves $18,700. 20% coinsurance on the remainder comes to $3,740.
Your total costs would seem to be $5,040. That's $1,300 (your deductible) plus $3,740 (coinsurance).
• But your out-of-pocket maximum is $4,400.
So you don’t pay $5,040. You stop paying when your reach $4,400.
Your insurance company pays all covered costs above $4,400 — for this surgery and any covered care you get for the rest of the plan year.
♦ Generally, plans with lower monthly premiums have higher out-of-pocket maximums.
Plans with higher premiums usually have lower out-of-pocket maximums.
You will find the details about your plan listed in the plan’s description of benefits.
It is important to understand what this is. It is especially important to factor this in when choosing one plan over another.
Would out-of-network expenses count toward out-of-pocket maximum?
• No. A plan may, but is not required to count out-of-pocket expenses towards the plan’s annual out-of-pocket maximum.
Is a plan required to count out-of-pocket expenses for non-covered items or services toward the plan’s annual out-of-pocket maximum?
• No. A plan may, but is not required to, count out-of-pocket spending for non-covered services (such as cosmetic services) towards the plan’s annual maximum out-of-pocket costs.
The term cost sharing does not include spending for non-covered services.
Under section 1302(c) (3) of the Affordable Care Act, the term cost sharing includes:
• Deductibles, coinsurance, copayments, or similar charges; and
• Any other expenditure which is a qualified medical expense.
The term cost sharing does not include premiums, balance billing amounts for non-network providers, or spending for non-covered services.
Nothing, however, prohibits a plan or issuer from counting such expenses toward the plan's annual maximum out-of-pocket limit.
What are allowable charges?
The maximum amount your insurance plan will pay for a covered health care service.
• Some plans refer to this as an eligible expense or a negotiated rate.
When you received a health care such as an office visit or testing service the provider will bill your insurance company.
Based upon the plan you have, you insurance company will inform both you and the provider the amount they will pay for the service.
This is the allowed amount for that charge.
♦ If you used a provider in your network this will also be the maximum the provider can receive.
Your portion will be determined by your plan and may require a copayment and/or coinsurance.
♦ If you use a provider that is not in your network then the allowed amount will be what your insurer considers as reasonable and customary.
Unfortunately, an out-of-network provider is not required to accept this as payment in full and they will most likely bill you for the remainder. This is called ‘balance billing’.
• A breakdown of the charges and what is allowed will be given to you in a statement the insurance company refers to as an Explanation of Benefit.
This document can be confusing.
It is important to understand how to read this because it contains critical information relating to how much was paid to the provider and how much you owe.
Learn about an Explanation of Benefits and how to read one.