The new Covid vaccine rollout has been chaotic, with people reporting that they are being asked to pay up front, or that they can’t find a supplier with free vaccines and appointments.
Like other rollouts, this one may get more predictable as time passes and vaccine supplies are delivered. Also, some of the delay is caused by insurance payment systems that have not been updated in stores and insurers’ computer systems; as time passes, that is likely to be ironed out.
But if you are asked to pay for a vaccine, you might not be responsible. Here are things you can do.
First, private insurance companies are required to pay for vaccines with no copay. But. unlike last year, insurers don’t have to pay out-of-network providers. So if you are going to an out-of-network place, and they ask you to pay, find an in-network one — your doctor’s office, for example, or an in-network pharmacy.
Also, if you can wait a few days, the supply and delivery issues may ease up. You can pay and then ask your insurer for reimbursement.
Bridge Access program
CVS, Walgreens and eTrueNorth are required by federal law to cover your vaccine at no cost if your insurance won’t cover it. The new Bridge Program insures that. “There are 25-30 million adults without health insurance and additional adults whose insurance does not cover all COVID-19 vaccine costs. CDC’s Bridge Access Program provides no-cost COVID-19 vaccines for these adults,” the program’s page on the Centers for Disease Control website says.
“You can get no-cost COVID-19 vaccines at healthcare providers, federally supported health centers, and retail pharmacy chains participating in the Bridge Access Program,” the page says. “Visit vaccines.gov to find providers that offer no-cost COVID-19 vaccines through the Bridge Access Program. Providers participating in the Bridge Access Program are contractually obligated to add vaccine availability to vaccines.gov. We expect reported availability to increase in the coming days.”
Note: My up-to-date Google Chrome browser, on a Macbook Air, apparently does not support vaccines.gov’s mapping function. Vacccines.gov did work on Safari, though. U.S. Government, do better!
Among the Bridge Access providers: State and local health departments; and state and local immunization programs are working with Health Resource and Services Administration-Supported Health Centers to provide no-cost COVID-19 vaccines.
For the big chains, C.D.C. is contracting with CVS, Walgreens, and eTrueNorth through existing Increasing Community Access to Testing (ICATT) contracts.
Uninsured or underinsured children
For uninsured or underinsured children, the Vaccines for Children program should cover not only Covid vaccines, but all required vaccines. This covers children meeting any one of these requirements: Medicaid-eligible, underinsured, uninsured, or American Indian or Alaska native. Underinsured children — those whose insurance policies do not cover any vaccines, or do not cover recommended vaccines — are eligible to receive vaccines only at federally qualified health centers (FQHCs) or rural health clinics. For more detail, check this page.
Some providers, like the Kaiser Permanente system, have announced that they will make the vaccine available in October. “If you have health insurance through Kaiser, you could be facing a longer wait for your new COVID vaccine than folks with other types of insurance — if you can’t (or don’t want to) pay these large costs up-front,” KQED radio reported. “Kaiser’s COVID vaccines webpage notes that the new vaccines have been authorized, and that Kaiser providers will “begin giving the vaccine once supplies are available (early October).”
Other people who are in a hurry have decided to pay up front and then to seek reimbursement later.