CLEVELAND — There’s a number of reasons people are hesitant to get the COVID-19 vaccine - many of them are of dubious validity, including the notion that one has to pay for it.
According to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, COVID-19 vaccines are "100% free to every individual living in the United States—even if you do not have insurance."
A poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that around a third of unvaccinated adults didn't know if insurance covered the shot. Poll data shows that 32% of unvaccinated adults are "concerned that they might have to pay an out-of-pocket cost to get vaccinated, even though the vaccine is available for free to all U.S. adults."
A News 5 viewer sent our newsroom a bill he received from Akron Children's Hospital after getting the second dose of the Pfizer vaccine back in May. The bill shows a $21.25 charge for the vaccine.
"I was actually kind of shocked. I didn't understand why I was getting charged for coronavirus shot or the vaccine," the viewer, who did not want to give his name, said. "I'm doing my due diligence and my civic duty of trying to stop the spread and now being charged for it. So, yeah, I was pretty shocked."
Sharona Hoffman, a professor of law and bioethics at Case Western Reserve University School of Law, said that shouldn't happen because with or without insurance the federal government picks up the tab for the vaccine.
"There is a fund that was set up through the CARES Act, if you remember that, that provides physicians for reimbursement, even if the patient does not have insurance," Hoffman said.
We reached out to Akron Children's asking why our viewer was billed. Matt Rusch, the vice-president of revenue cycle at the hospital, said:
"Thank you for bringing this to our attention. This inquiry has helped us identify an error in our system, which affected a small number of patients who received their COVID-19 vaccines in their physicians' offices. Anyone who received the COVID-19 vaccine in the clinics were not billed. The system error has been corrected and we will be reaching out directly to any patients who were affected. We are grateful to you for pointing this out so we could correct it quickly."
Hoffman and the HHS said that if you get a bill, you should reach out to your health care provider.
"You just have to remind them that it needs to be for free and that there is money available to reimburse them for any costs that they have absorbed," Hoffman said.
But what happens if you do receive a bill?
"Providers who participate in and are reimbursed from the HRSA COVID-19 Uninsured Program for qualified COVID-19 related services rendered to you are not allowed to 'balance bill,' which means you should not receive a bill," the HHS said.
Furthermore, "Regardless of your insurance status, providers cannot charge you for the COVID-19 vaccine or administration of the COVID-19 vaccine," the HHS stated.
Ohio Department of Health Chief Medical Officer Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff added, "If you have insurance, they'll ask you for insurance information so they can bill your insurance. But if you don't have insurance, you don't have to pay for these vaccines. So we have free vaccines that work very well and are incredibly safe."
There are plenty of options available for you to get vaccinated without worrying about how to pay for it or if you don't have a primary care provider.
You currently have a few days left to grab an initial dose of the Pfizer vaccine at the Wolstein Center in Cleveland. The second dose will then be scheduled at an area Discount Drug Mart location. The Wolstein Center closes on June 7.
You can also schedule vaccine appointments at multiple locations across the area for free.
Pharmacies at Walgreens, Discount Drug Mart, Marcs, Walmart, Meijer and Giant Eagle all offer the vaccine for free.
To find the nearest location to get the shot, you can visit the Ohio Department of Health's website here.
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