COVID-19 vaccines are free to anyone in the U.S. who wants one and come with no copays or costs for those who are uninsured, but some people have still reported receiving bills for the shot.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention clearly states on its website that the vaccine should be "provided at 100% no cost to recipients," regardless of immigration or health insurance status, and that it’s being paid for by the federal government.
Vaccine providers cannot charge for an office visit or other fee if the only service provided is a COVID-19 vaccination, the CDC says.
But vaccine providers can seek reimbursement for a vaccine administration fee from the recipient’s plan or program, such as private health insurance, Medicare or Medicaid. But still, providers can’t charge patients the balance of the bill, the agency adds.
Despite this, some people have reported being erroneously charged by vaccine providers or insurance companies.
FILE - A student pharmacist administers a COVID-19 vaccine to a student in Riggleman Hall at the University of Charleston in a file image dated April 8, 2021 in Charleston, West Virginia. (Photo by Stephen Zenner/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Ima
Laura Marsh, a literary editor at The New Republic magazine, recently shared that she was billed for a COVID-19 vaccine. Marsh wrote on Twitter that her health insurance company said the shot itself was free, but not the administration of it, and that she still owed money because she used an "out-of-network provider."
Another woman in New Mexico told KRQE-TV that she received a bill in the mail for $34, charging her for the administration of the vaccine. She ended up calling her insurance to get the charge removed. Others have shared similar stories of being wrongfully charged, including one Twitter user who said it took two weeks to be refunded.
ProPublica, the nonprofit investigative news organization, reported one 85-year-old woman in Maine who received her COVID-19 shot at a primary care practice was later billed $71.01.
"If your outstanding balance becomes 120 days past due, the balance will be transferred to the Thomas Agency for further collection action," the bottom of her bill read, according to the outlet.
After some back-and-forth with the primary care center, she also ended up not needing to pay the bill.
Regulations state that providers can seek reimbursement for uninsured COVID-19 vaccine recipients through the Health Resources and Services Administration's Provider Relief Fund, according to the CDC.
Dr. Vivek Murthy, the U.S. Surgeon General, recently clarified on Twitter that an individual can’t be billed for COVID-19 vaccinations.
"If you receive a bill, you should first speak to the person or facility that sent it," Murthy wrote in a tweet shared April 17, adding that if they don’t cancel it — contact the Health and Human Services’ Office of the Inspector General to file an official complaint.
Anyone who has been fraudulently charged a COVID-19 vaccination fee should report them by calling the HHS’ Office of Inspector General Hotline at 1-800-HHS-TIPS or online at TIPS.HHS.GOV.
This story was reported from Cincinnati.