The U.S. government is spending billions of dollars on COVID-19 vaccines and at-home test kits. So why are some people being charged for the shots they got last year?
Matt Kunkle is a graphics designer who got the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine almost a year ago.
"I got the COVID vaccine when it was first available to my age group, March or April, around then," he said.
Kunkle forgot all about it until he checked his phone the other day to find a bill for his two shots.
"There were two charges for $25, so it was $50 total," he said.
He couldn't believe it.
"It was just strange to me because it is kind of universal knowledge that these things are free, you know?" he said.
Why you may get a bill
While the vaccine itself is free and paid for by taxpayers, some hospitals and doctors groups have been adding an "administrative" fee, and those bills are just showing up now.
Tim and Vickie Gobin say it also happened to them after going to a grocery store pharmacy for their "free" shots.
"Nothing was said about any charge, any fee, so I got my shot and 10 days later we get the bill," she said.
A recent New York Times investigation found that "the vaccines are supposed to be free, but surprise bills could happen anyway." An insurance trade group — AHIP — told the Times that "health insurance providers should pay for the administrative fees."
That means those who receive a bill should call their insurance company and ask them to remove the charge.
Test kits should be free, too
Meanwhile, the Department of Labor says health plans must cover the cost of at-home test kits as of Jan. 15.
Those who buy a test kit at a pharmacy and are charged for it should save the receipt and contact their insurance company. Those companies should provide a reimbursement.
Kunkle is worried others would simply pay the bill he got.
"For me, it was an immediate red flag because I don't go often, but for someone else with multiple bills, I can see how they would pay it without thinking," he said.
Kunkle called his provider and said they dropped the $50 fee.
So make the call, so you don't waste your money.
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