Billed for a COVID-19 Vaccine? Don't Pay

If you are charged, it's an error. Call your provider directly and dispute the fees.

photo of a needle into a bottle of medicine with dollar bills in the background
(Image credit: Getty Images)

The COVID-19 vaccination—along with the recently rolled out booster shot—is absolutely free, thanks to the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act. Even so, nearly one-third of unvaccinated adults say they’re concerned about out-of-pocket costs, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation survey (opens in new tab). Those concerns aren’t helped by reports that some people have been billed for their vaccination appointment.

The skepticism isn’t surprising, because a free service is “kind of an anomaly in the American health care system,” says Caitlin Donovan, senior director of public relations at the nonprofit Patient Advocate Foundation. But as far as the COVID-19 vaccines are concerned, she says, “nobody should be billed for the vaccine. Not a provider fee, no co-pay, nothing.”

Individuals may be charged for COVID-19 vaccinations because providers bill them directly, instead of their insurers, or due to human error in medical billing systems. In either case, Donovan says, you should call your provider directly and dispute the charges. Your insurer also may be willing to help you get the bill waived.

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If you’re concerned about being charged, Donovan recommends getting your vaccination at a public facility, such as a community center, instead of at your doctor’s office or local hospital. To find a center near you, visit www.vaccines.gov (opens in new tab).

Michael Korsh
Intern, Kiplinger’s Personal Finance

Korsh is a recent graduate and incoming graduate student at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. He majored in journalism with a minor in psychology, and his graduate degree will be in the Medill Investigative Lab specialization of the MS in journalism program. He has previously interned for Injustice Watch, the Medill Investigative Lab and Moment Magazine, and he served as the print managing editor of North by Northwestern student newsmagazine. Korsh became a Kiplinger intern through the American Society of Magazine Editors Internship Program.