Private providers can bill insurance companies for administering the injection, and those without insurance are covered by the government.
Chicago health officials want to make this clear after a Chicago clinic learned the hard way.
Chicago Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said her inspectors are examining urgent care centers in the city to determine if vaccinated patients are be charged, in violation of program regulations.
“I want the people of Chicago to hear that they should not be billed directly for receiving a COVID vaccine …” Arwady said.
Jamie Gentry said she was surprised and genuinely disappointed when she unexpectedly found out that she would have to pay nearly $ 200 to get the vaccine at Michigan Avenue Immediate Care in Chicago.
Gentry said she was eligible for a vaccine as an essential worker, and that she regularly volunteers at a food pantry.
She booked a vaccine through ZocDoc, the website Chicago uses to help people locate providers who have signed up to provide the vaccines.
Gentry said it took 16 hours to find one. When he accidentally booked two appointments and had to call the clinic to cancel, he said they told him the facility was outside of his insurance network and that he would have to pay a nearly $ 200 medical consultation fee out of pocket.
“I went into the schedule and I assumed the vaccine was going to be free and at the most, I thought I would have to pay an administration fee of $ 15 or $ 20. So I was, I was really surprised and really disappointed,” Gentry said.
Dr. Jim Runke, Michigan Avenue Immediate Care co-medical director, said this was a major oversight.
He told the I-Team that they were unaware that no fees could be charged to uninsured or out-of-network consumers, and said they will reimburse the 20 patients they charged out of the 1,500 vaccinated last month. .
“So yeah, that definitely fell through the cracks,” Runke said. “That was totally our fault … I’ve been doing this for 30 years, insurance billing is immensely complicated and confusing. It is always the last part of the puzzle piece we solve, and we hear that it is again. head in the middle of all this when we’re just focused on patient safety focused on the safety of our staff and things like that, so there are no excuses. “
Arwady stressed that the health department does not regulate these facilities but that the city makes decisions about who receives the vaccine. He said his department is investigating these complaints and having discussions with vendors.
“It mostly relates to urgent care which tends to be more of a fee for service that people then reimburse for insurance, so we are bringing those groups together and we just want to make sure that what people are doing is appropriate in terms of this. allowed, “Arwady said.
Jamie Gentry said he received an apology and explanation from Dr. Jim Runke at the Michigan Avenue clinic that mistakenly charged him nearly $ 200.
Runke and public health officials agree that patients receiving the vaccine can be legitimately charged for additional services provided at the time the injection is given, including medical treatment and consultations about other illnesses. .
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