Becerra warns against charging patients for COVID-19 vaccination

In a letter to physicians and insurers, the HHS head reminds that patients can’t be charged for the vaccine.

The head of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is warning providers and payers not to charge patients for COVID-19 vaccines.

In a letter to these groups, HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra reminded these entities that the COVID-19 vaccines are free for any patient in the U.S. regardless of insurance or immigration status.

The letter comes after the Kaiser Family Foundation found in April that 32 percent of residents who have not been vaccinated yet have cited fears that they might have to pay out-of-pocket for the shot.

Becerra reminds physicians in the letter that in order to receive a supply of the vaccines, they were required to sign an agreement stating that there be no out-of-pocket costs to patients, and that patients not be required to receive other services in order to receive the jabs.

“We recognize that there are costs associated with administering the vaccines – from staff trainings to vaccine storage,” he writes. “For these expenses, providers may not bill patients but can seek reimbursement through Medicare, Medicaid, private insurance, or other applicable coverage. Most group health plans and health insurers are statutorily required to cover COVID-19 vaccines recommended by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention without cost-sharing.”

When vaccinating the uninsured, physicians can bill the Health Resources and Services Administration COVID-19 Uninsured and COVID-19 Coverage Assistance Fund programs for vaccination fees. Any accidental accepting of payment from patients for these services should immediately be returned. Any provider who does not abide by the agreement may be reported HHS Office of the Inspector General for possible enforcement, the letter says.

The text of the full letter can be found here.