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Why you may get a bill for your 'free' COVID-19 vaccine shot

vaccine
Posted at 10:32 AM, Apr 20, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-20 10:32:54-04

The federal government is spending billions of dollars on the COVID-19 vaccines, which, in return, means the shot is supposed to be free for those who get it.

So why are some people being charged? That's what some are wondering after they received bills for their shots.

Tim and Vickie Gobin were excited to receive their COVID-19 shots in March, but when they arrived at a grocery store pharmacy department, they were surprised they had to give an insurance card.

"I said 'why do you need our insurance card, I thought this was all free?'" Vickie Gobin recalled. "The nurse told me that it is just a way to track you."

So she handed over her card.

"Nothing was said about any charge or fee, so I got my shot, no big deal. But 10 days later, I got my bill," she said.

It was a bill for $45.

Luckily, it said the Gobins owed only $11 after insurance.

"They (the insurance company) paid $33.30 of that $45, and the remainder was billed to us," Tim Gobin said.

But they thought the vaccine was supposed to be free, which is why the Gobins reached out.

Why you may get charged a small fee

So we checked with the CDC, which explains that while the vaccine is paid for by the government, some providers may charge a small "administrative fee" that should be covered by your insurance or Medicare.

Unfortunately, even if you ask up front, it's tough to know if you are going to get hit with an administrative fee.

But based on Reddit complaints and news reports from around the country, it seems most of the issues concern pharmacies and grocery stores, with the fewest complaints at mass vaccination clinics.

A store spokeswoman told us that sometimes insurance companies may not fully cover the administrative fee.

She suggests customers call their pharmacy if they are billed.

Medicare has agreed to pay up to $40 extra per shot for administrative fees, though some insurance companies may not pay that much.

Tim Gobin thinks that's not right.

"If I am just one of thousands that this may be occurring to, that adds up to a lot of money," he said

The pharmacy saving site GoodRX.com says if you get a charge, call the pharmacy or your insurer, and many of them should drop your portion of the bill.

That way you don't waste your money.
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