42% of Vaccinated Consumers Paid for Their Shots

42% of Vaccinated Consumers Paid for Their Shots

Many report receiving surprise bills for COVID-19 vaccines and tests
nurse with COVID-19 vaccine

Many people expect to receive their COVID-19 vaccines for free, and not without good reason. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), COVID-19 vaccines are available for everyone ages 5 years and older at no cost.

But that hasn't been the experience of all who’ve received the vaccine. In a December 2021 survey from health insurance resource website AffordableHealthInsurance.com, more than 40% of people who were vaccinated report having been billed for at least one of their shots. Federal agencies call some of those bills a scam.

Are vaccine bills a scam?

According to the CDC, no provider should charge a fee for vaccines or related services. The agency also advises that no person can be turned away by a provider, regardless of their immigration or insurance status. Yet a significant number of people report having been charged anyway.

Here's what survey respondents say:

  • 42% of all vaccinated people report having paid for shots
  • Of those charged, 43% weren’t expecting a bill
  • 68% of uninsured people and 34% of insured people paid for vaccines
  • 8% of vaccinated people received a bill for more than $200

Were these people victims of vaccine scams? For some, it’s possible — for others, there may be a different explanation.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) advises that charges for the vaccine are either the result of a scam or a mistake. For those with medical coverage, the bill should have been taken care of by their insurer. Meanwhile, for those who are uninsured, the cost should have been covered by a government fund, without any necessary action or copays from the recipient.

Whatever the explanation, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) says that anyone who received a bill must be refunded; any person who is unable to collect a refund is encouraged to submit a complaint online or call 800-HHS-TIPS (800-447-8477).

Costs prohibits patients from seeking COVID-19 care

Health care costs prevent many Americans from seeking medical care, and COVID-19 care is no exception. Here's how participants in the AffordableHealthInsurance.com survey report that anticipated costs have impacted their choices:

  • 28% have avoided getting treated for COVID-19 because of cost concerns
  • 44% who believe they’ll have to pay for the vaccine are unvaccinated
  • 1 in 3 have skipped at least one COVID-19 test because of cost concerns

Like the vaccine, federal agencies report that tests can be accessed for free, but many survey recipients say they’ve had a different experience. Half (50%) of those who received on-site testing say they were charged for their tests — notably, 62% of this cohort said they knew they’d be charged, which underscores the rampant cost misinformation surrounding COVID-19 testing and vaccination.

As of Jan. 19, 2022, the Biden administration has made a number of free at-home tests available for order by mail to every U.S. household — orders for free tests can be placed at COVIDTests.gov. In addition, as of Jan. 15, 2022, private insurers were also required to begin providing up to eight rapid tests per month for each insured person.

Methodology: This survey of 1,250 American adults was commissioned by AffordableHealthInsurance.com and conducted online by Pollfish on Dec. 27, 2021.