The message is clear: the COVID-19 vaccine is free to all recipients, regardless of coverage status.
Except, maybe it isn’t all that clear, as a number of patients have reported receiving a bill — or what might appear to be a bill — despite the federal government prohibiting balance billing for COVID-19 vaccine services. Complaints of surprise billing have compelled the Office of Inspector General to reiterate the message, reminding providers that, while they may bill commercial insurers, Medicare, Medicaid or the COVID-19 Uninsured Program for administration fees associated with the vaccine, they cannot seek any reimbursement from consumers.
Confusion surrounding COVID-19 vaccine billing is a problem for patients, providers, insurers and government payers alike. In some ways, it might be considered a natural consequence of a massive and unprecedented vaccination effort, deployed amid an ongoing pandemic crisis. However, it is these same circumstances that make getting it right so critical.