The rollout of the latest round of COVID-19 vaccines has begun, but some people are encountering significant problems. They are being charged, sometimes up to $150, to receive a vaccine that was free last year. The issue lies in the computing systems used for insurance billing, which have not been updated to cover the newest COVID-19 vaccine.
There are a few reasons for this problem. In the past, the federal government covered the cost of the vaccines, so insurance companies did not need to update their systems to accommodate them. Additionally, insurance companies typically have a grace period of several months to implement new vaccines, but this is no longer the case.
The University of Kansas Health System physicians even discussed these difficulties on their program, highlighting the issues with the rollout. Dr. Steven Stites explained that production ramp-up and distribution always take time, as well as changes in insurance requirements. Previously, COVID-19 vaccines were always free, but now some insurance coverage is necessary.
According to the law, insurance companies must cover the COVID-19 vaccine if it is obtained within their network. The Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary wrote an open letter to healthcare payors to remind them of this requirement. The HHS Secretary stated that the coverage for the updated COVID-19 vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna without cost-sharing became effective immediately upon FDA authorization or approval of these vaccines.
The computer errors causing these billing issues are expected to be resolved in the coming weeks. However, it is important to note that the calendar should determine when individuals receive the vaccine, not the cost or computer software. Dr. Sarah Boyd of Saint Luke’s Health System advises individuals to get vaccinated in the next couple of weeks as the vaccine availability increases in the community and to continue taking precautions, especially those at high risk.
In 2020, the vaccine supply was initially given to health systems to prioritize distribution to the high-risk population, and then it went to retail pharmacies. However, this time, the first batch of supplies went to retail pharmacies, causing health systems to wait for their supply. The Jackson and Johnson County Health Departments have confirmed that they are awaiting a shipment of vaccines.
To find a COVID-19 vaccine near you, you can visit vaccine.gov for more information.