Report: Millions of Seniors Wrongly Think COVID-19 Vaccine Costs Money

Christian Worstell
In this article...
  • A recent study highlighted misinformation about the cost of the COVID-19 vaccine, and that misinformation comes with a cost of its own. Learn more about what’s keeping hundreds of thousands of seniors from getting vaccinated.

Getting vaccinated against COVID-19 is supposed to be free for all Americans. Unfortunately, a significant number of older adults are avoiding the vaccine out of cost concerns because they mistakenly believe they will have to pay for the vaccine. 

This is especially troubling in the over-65 community, which is more vulnerable to the virus than other age groups and was among the first cohort to be offered the vaccine. 

These COVID cost concerns were recently highlighted in a study conducted by MedicareAdvantage.com. The Medicare insurance information organization compiled data collected by the U.S. Census Bureau regarding U.S. adults who were refraining from being vaccinated for COVID-19 and their reasons for refusing the jab.

According to the data, more than 312,000 seniors are passing on the shot because they mistakenly believe they will have to pay for it. And that’s just the adults who are 65 years of age and older. The total number of adults passing on the vaccine out of invalid concerns about the cost was more than 6.8 million nationwide. 

Hole in the Arm, Hole in the Pocket

At the root of the concerns over cost is the fact that people actually have been getting charged for the shot. And for more than one reason. 

Arguably the biggest reason is because vaccine centers are allowed to charge an “administration fee” for the act of actually injecting the vaccine into a patient’s arm. However, insurance companies are not allowed to pass any administration fees to the vaccine recipient. Administration fees must be fully covered by insurance and reimbursed by the federal government in the same manner as the vaccine itself. 

There is also the possibility of being billed by an insurer for receiving a vaccine at a facility that is not in the insurance plan’s network of participating providers. But there are no network restrictions when it comes to the vaccine. It’s free no matter where you get it. Without knowing this, some people are driving to other states to get vaccinated

Some people may also get a bill after receiving additional services at the time of their COVID-19 vaccine. For instance, you visit your doctor and receive the vaccine, an allergy test and an examination all during the same appointment. In that case, you will be billed for the allergy test and examination and will likely be charged an office visit as well. Then you receive a bill and mistakenly believe you were charged for the vaccine. But what you’re actually seeing is just the charges for those other services. Or perhaps you were indeed billed for the vaccine because the vaccine charge got lost among the other services when the bill was coded. 

Keep in mind that insurance companies are processing thousands of claims every day for the COVID-19 vaccine. Human error is inevitable under such circumstances. 

Medical and insurance fraud and related scams are also big business, and there are always bad actors at play, especially during the widespread panic caused by a pandemic. 

If you have been billed for the COVID-19 vaccine, you should dispute the charge before paying anything. 

Charges Turning Into Concerns

There is plenty of blame to go around when it comes to cost concerns over the COVID-19 vaccine.

For starters, some people are indeed being billed for the vaccine. And once they are, they tell everyone they know. They post about it on social media. Before you know it, a hundred other people fear that they too will get a bill for their vaccine. And some of those may decide against getting the shot as a result. 

You also have to consider that many uninsured individuals might assume that they will have to pay for the vaccine, since they have become accustomed to paying all of their health care costs in full. But this is untrue, as the vaccine is free to even the uninsured. 

And those without legal immigration status might assume they are not eligible for a free shot. This is also not true, as the vaccine is free regardless of your immigration status. 

Some people might get worried when they try to schedule an appointment for the vaccine and they are asked for their insurance information. But this is no reason to panic. They just need to know which insurance company to send the bill to and file the claim for their reimbursement. 

Erasing Doubt

So how do we reverse course and get these vaccine refusers back? The same way we let them get away in the first place: Information. 

If you know any of these 6.8 million people who are refusing the vaccine simply because they fear they will have to pay for it, reach out to them. The official website of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) details all of the cost and payment information about the COVID-19 vaccine. Encourage people you know to contact their insurance company about their concerns. If they are uninsured, have them read up on how reimbursement works for the uninsured.

Christian Worstell
About the Author

Christian Worstell is a licensed insurance agent and a Senior Staff Writer for HelpAdvisor.com. He is passionate about helping people navigate the complexities of federal benefits and understand their coverage options.

His work has been featured in outlets such as VoxMSN, and The Washington Post, and he is a frequent contributor to health care and finance blogs.

Christian is a graduate of Shippensburg University with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. He currently lives in Raleigh, NC.

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