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New COVID vaccines are free, but check with your insurance

Published on September 26, 2023 at 11:32 am

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend anyone 6 months or older should get the newest COVID-19 vaccines.

And thanks to the Affordable Care Act, the shots remain free to consumers.

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However, some people have gotten surprise bills from insurance companies after getting vaccinated.

A Florida Blue spokesperson said a small percentage of members received a bill due to the “recent addition of the new vaccine” in its billing system.

The insurance group added the shot is available at “zero cost” for most members. Those affected by the billing mishap can contact the company or pharmacy for a reimbursement.

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Epidemiologist Jason Salemi with the University of South Florida College of Public Health said the accidental charges and added problems with the vaccine rollout are the ramifications of the public health emergency ending.

“It’s resulting in a lot of frustrated people because they are absolutely being charged up to $200 to get this dose in their arms,” he said. “And that should not be the case.”

For the 25 million to 30 million Americans without health insurance, vaccine coverage gets more complicated.

The CDC’s new initiative called the Bridge Access Program is intended to help.

“It provides no-cost COVID-19 vaccines to adults without health insurance and adults whose insurance does not cover all COVID-19 vaccine costs,” according to the program’s website.

The Bridge Access Program is available until Dec. 31, 2024.

CVS Pharmacy is offering the vaccine at select locations at no cost. But the fine print on its website says that is only “with most insurance plans or through a federal program for the uninsured.”

Walgreens has a similar message saying vaccines are provided at no cost to customers with health insurance or through federal assistance.

“There are still plenty of people who are dying from COVID-19 every day, and so we should be making it as easy as possible for people to be able to get vaccinated if they want to,” Salemi said. “We are clearly not doing that — we’re either making it frustrating because of these issues with billing systems or extra steps that they have to take.”

To see if your pharmacy accepts the Bridge Access Program or to find out where you can get a shot, visit Vaccines.gov.

In addition, beginning this past Monday, every household can order for delivery up to four free COVID test kits through the federal government.

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