‘They are eligible for a free vaccine’: 24,000+ Va. seniors to skip vaccine over cost concerns, study finds

Study shows Virginia seniors to skip vaccine over cost concerns

RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - There are many reasons why people are skeptical of the COVID-19 vaccine, but the experts say cost shouldn’t be one of them.

“If one person gets billed, they tell everyone they know, they post about it on social media, it gets picked up by the news and before you know it - there’s wide spread panic,” Christian Worstell said.

Worstell is a Licensed Insurance Agent with MedicareAdvantage.com who was also the author of a recent study that showed that more than 24,000 Virginians 65 and older were opting out of the vaccine due to perceived out-of-pocket cost, despite federal announcements that the COVID-19 vaccine is free of charge.

The survey data by Medicareadvantage.com from the Census Bureau shows that nearly six out of every 100 seniors will decline the vaccine. Only three other states have more seniors skipping the vaccine over cost concerns. Vaccine cost concern per capita was highest in Minnesota, Nevada, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Montana.

The study also showed that more than 300,000 older adults nationwide are not planning to receive the COVID-19 vaccine because they mistakenly believe they will have to pay for it, which is slightly more than the number of adults age 65 and over who have died from COVID-19 since the pandemic began.

Worstell says some of the vaccine hesitancy stems from cases where seniors were mistakenly billed by their insurance for the shot. He says the most common example of this is when customers are charged administration fees, which is the act of injecting the shot into your arm.

“Some people actually are being charged for the vaccine when they shouldn’t be,” Worstell said. “Insurance companies are allowed to charge that administration fee, however, that fee is not allowed to be passed on to the vaccine recipient, it’s supposed to be covered in full by the insurance and then reimbursed by the federal government.”

Worstell says because insurance companies are processing hundreds of thousands of vaccine claims a day, it’s possible that you could be mistakenly charged. If that happens, he says your best move is to call your provider.

According to the CDC, vaccination providers can be reimbursed for administration fees by the patient’s public or private insurance company, or for uninsured patients, by the Health Resources and Services Administration’s Provider Relief Fund, and no one can be denied a vaccine if they are unable to pay a vaccine administration fee.

“If you get a bill for the vaccine - don’t pay it, dispute it,” Worstell said. “Take it up with your insurance company, take it up with the facility where you got the vaccine.”

Cat Long with the Richmond Henrico Health Department says there is a way you can avoid the hassle of making sure your vaccine is free.

“One of those ways is through the health department. Our vaccines are completely free. We don’t charge you, we don’t charge your insurance, we don’t ask for you to provide your insurance information,” Long said.

“Misinformation won’t get us anywhere, and it certainly won’t get us past this pandemic,” Worstell said. “We need that herd immunity, we need to reach out to people, we need as many people on board as possible. We need to reach out to people who are uninsured or people without legal immigration status, we need to make sure they know that they are eligible for a free vaccine just like everyone else.”

Even if you don’t have insurance, those vaccines should still be free to you. Worstell says it is possible to be charged if you got your vaccine at the same time as a regularly scheduled doctor’s visit, but in that case, those charges should only be for those additional services and not the vaccine.

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