People looking to get their new COVID-19 vaccine are feeling sore over hefty unexpected charges for the federally-recommended shot.
Customers nationwide at pharmacies including Walgreens and CVS who landed appointments for the jab this week were shocked to learn they would feel the additional pinch of three-figure fees for their boosters.
“Nightmare is the first word that comes to mind,” Acton, Massachusetts, resident Glen Cote told WBZ-TV after he learned his new booster would run him $190.99.
Some pharmacists even reached out to customers to warn them about the eye-popping fees and recommend they reschedule their appointments.
The unexpected out-of-pocket costs are in part the result of pharmacies fighting over market share for the new vaccine, The Albany Times Union reported.
Chains like CVS and Walgreens hurriedly placed orders for the latest jabs, which were approved by the Food and Drug Administration last week, before some insurance plans updated their systems for the new shots’ billing codes.
“Some payers are still updating their systems and may not yet be set up to cover the updated COVID-19 vaccines,” a CVS spokesperson told WBZ.
COVID vaccines were free for everyone through the federal COVID-19 Public Health Emergency declaration, which ended earlier this year. Commercial, Medicare and Medicaid insurance plans must cover the vaccination costs with no co-pays for the patients, according to KFF.
People without health insurance can get free COVID vaccines through local health care centers; state, local, tribal, or territorial health departments; or pharmacies engaging in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Bridge Access program, according to the federal agency.
The latest COVID shot was developed to protect recipients against the XBB variants and has been shown to provide some protection against other new variants as well. The CDC last week recommended for anyone ages six months or older to receive a booster this fall.
Covid cases have been rising across the country as cooler weather sets in.
The state Health Department shows a slow-but-steady increase in the number of COVID cases in the five boroughs in the past few months, with about 650 hospitalized patients as of Friday, including 63 in intensive care. That’s up from a low of 150 people hospitalized at the end of June.
Hospitalizations this year peaked in early January, when about 1,950 people were being treated as inpatients.
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