When Paul Moser considers receiving a coronavirus vaccine, he also thinks about his outstanding medical debt: $ 1,200 from some urology visits that he has been unable to pay.
Mr. Moser, a 52-year-old gas station cashier in New York States have friends who were surprised by the bills for coronovirus tests, and worry that the same may happen with the vaccine. For now, he’s holding off on taking his shot.
“We were told by legislators that all tests should have been free, and then surprisingly, it’s $150,” he said. “I agree that getting vaccinated is important, but I have no urgency about it.”
Congress passed laws preventing pharmacies and hospitals from billing patients for coronavirus vaccines. Signs on vaccination sites advertise that the shot is free. From the very beginning, health officials and government leaders have told the public that it will not cost anything. And there have been some reports of people facing charges.
Nevertheless, some non-vaccinated adults cite concerns about the following: surprise bill Because of not being shot. Many of them are accustomed to a health system in which bills are frequent, large and often unpredictable.
a Recent Kaiser Family Foundation Polls found that nearly a third of non-vaccinated adults were unsure whether insurance covered the new vaccine and were concerned they might need to pay for the shot. Particular concern was expressed among Hispanic and Black survey respondents.
“The conversation we’ve had goes like this: ‘Yes, I know it’s cool. Yes, I want it, but I don’t have insurance,'” says medical director of Ultamed, a community health network in Southern California. “We’re trying to make sure everyone knows it’s free,” said Ilan Shapiro, who serves a large Hispanic population.
Confusion may represent a lack of information, or suspicion that the bill will not follow a doctor’s visit. Liz Hamel, director of survey research at Kaiser, said this may reflect people’s experience with the healthcare system: “People may have heard it’s available for free, but didn’t believe it.”
Congress has tried to protect patients from bills for coronavirus vaccines and tests. At the start of the pandemic, it was mandated that insurers waive co-pays and deductibles for both services, and set up a fund to reimburse doctors who saw uninsured patients.
Still, the patients found themselves facing bill for test – Some for more than $ 1,000. Some doctors billed uninsured patients for testing instead of new, federal funds. Others faced unexpected fees and services for the test trip.
Vaccine billing rules made even tighter. To become a vaccinator, doctors and pharmacies had to sign a contract promising patients not to bill for shots.
The strong security seems to have worked. While many patients face coronavirus bill for testing – The New York Times have documented Dozens of cases — just a handful of vaccines — are included in the bills submitted by readers.
However, some unexpected charges have been reduced: patients in Illinois, North Carolina And Colorado Received vaccine bill by mistake. In all cases, vaccine providers reversed charges and apologized for errors.
The federal government has received some complaints about the unexpected charges, and has recently warned doctors against billing patients.
Surprising bills for coronavirus vaccines, tests and other medical care can leave a mark on patients. Americans with medical debt are more likely to forgo essential care than those with other types of debt, such as outstanding credit card bills or student loans, according to a 2013 study by Lucie Kalosova, assistant professor of sociology at the University of California, Riverside.
“For someone who has taken on medical debt, they may be told by the media and everyone else that the vaccine is cost-free, but it is also their very negative, prior encounters with the medical system that created a sense of distrust. is,” she said.
Some patients who were concerned about the cost of the coronavirus vaccine said they always expect to be billed after a doctor’s appointment. He cited stories of friends or family members who ended up with expensive coronavirus testing and treatment bills, and wondered why a vaccine would be any different.
“This is America – your health care is not free,” said Elizabeth Drummond, a 42-year-old mother in Oregon who is not vaccinated. “I just feel like that’s how the vaccination process is going. They’re going to try to capitalize on it.”
It’s also possible that survey research underscores how many Americans fear getting a surprise vaccine bill. When The Times conducted follow-up interviews with Kaiser’s help, some survey respondents who expressed this concern said it didn’t really mean much to them.
Instead, he said he reacted that way to express frustration with the vaccine or the wider US health system.
“Cost is the smallest detail,” said Cody Sirman, 32, who works in manufacturing in Texas and who has decided to go without vaccinations. He said he wouldn’t mind paying for the vaccine if he trusted it – but he doesn’t: “I think the vaccine is a complete sham. It was just a way of looking at what the population was doing.” But how much control can the government have.”
For many people, the potential cost of the vaccine is only part of a set of reasons that remain unconvincing. Identifying the deciding factor – or even the patients – can often be difficult for pollinators. Separate research from the Census Bureau last month found that Americans were more concerned about the side effects of the vaccine than the potential charges.
“Most people aren’t saying they’re worried about just one thing; it’s usually a lot of things,” said Ms Hamel of the Kaiser Family Foundation.
Tiffany Adote, a 42-year-old school bus driver in North Carolina, cites concerns about costs. This mostly stems from his experience trying to get a coronavirus test done.
“It worried me that some places were charging like $200 for coronavirus tests,” she said. “I didn’t pay. I went home. I have enough bills.”
There are other things that worry him, such as the vaccine’s safety with its rapid development stalling the recent Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
When Ms. Adote was told that federal law makes the vaccine free for all Americans, she replied, “So I just have to pay my co-pay?”
Learning that it would actually be free, with no co-pays, “helped a little bit,” she said. But that wasn’t enough to put my mind at ease about vaccination, at least not yet.
“I’m going to try and wait a little longer for it to market,” she said. “I think after a little more research and a little more time, I’ll find it.”