© 2023 All Rights reserved WUSF
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

The new COVID vaccines are free, but check with your insurance company first

Health worker extracts coronavirus vaccine from a vial with a syringe in the foreground. Female patient in the background with her sleeve pulled up to expose her arm.
The updated COVID-19 vaccines are now available, but some people have been charged for the shot. A federal program will cover the cost for all Americans through the end of next year.

COVID-19 vaccines are free for everyone through the Affordable Care Act. But before you make the trip to your local pharmacy, check and see if your health insurance will cover it.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend anyone 6 months or older should get the newest COVID-19 vaccines.

And thanks to the Affordable Care Act, the shots remain free to consumers.

However, some people have gotten surprise bills from insurance companies after getting vaccinated.

A Florida Blue spokesperson said a small percentage of members received a bill due to the "recent addition of the new vaccine" in its billing system.

The insurance group added the shot is available at “zero cost" for most members. Those affected by the billing mishap can contact the company or pharmacy for a reimbursement.

Epidemiologist Jason Salemi with the University of South Florida College of Public Health said the accidental charges and added problems with the vaccine rollout are the ramifications of the public health emergency ending.

"It's resulting in a lot of frustrated people because they are absolutely being charged up to $200 to get this dose in their arms," he said. "And that should not be the case."

For the 25 million to 30 million Americans without health insurance, vaccine coverage gets more complicated.

The CDC's new initiative called the Bridge Access Program is intended to help.

"It provides no-cost COVID-19 vaccines to adults without health insurance and adults whose insurance does not cover all COVID-19 vaccine costs," according to the program's website.

The Bridge Access Program is available until Dec. 31, 2024.

CVS Pharmacy is offering the vaccine at select locations at no cost. But the fine print on its website says that is only "with most insurance plans or through a federal program for the uninsured."

Walgreens has a similar message saying vaccines are provided at no cost to customers with health insurance or through federal assistance.

"There are still plenty of people who are dying from COVID-19 every day and so we should be making it as easy as possible for people to be able to get vaccinated if they want to," Salemi said. "We are clearly not doing that — we're either making it frustrating because of these issues with billing systems or extra steps that they have to take."

To see if your pharmacy accepts the Bridge Access Program or to find out where you can get a shot, visit Vaccines.gov.

In addition, beginning Monday (Sept. 25), every household can order for delivery up to four free COVID test kits through the federal government.

Nothing about my life has been typical. Before I fell in love with radio journalism, I enjoyed a long career in the arts in musical theatre.
WUSF 89.7 depends on donors for the funding it takes to provide you the most trusted source of news and information here in town, across our state, and around the world. Support WUSF now by giving monthly, or make a one-time donation online.