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VERIFY: No, you don't have to pay to get a COVID vaccine

The vaccine shots themselves don't cost any money. If you're being asked to pay for one, or to "skip the waiting line", beware of being scammed.

WASHINGTON — With more and more people becoming vaccinated, many have reached out to the Verify team to know more about the vaccination process and what to expect.

So we’re answering your questions with the help of our experts -- like this one:

QUESTION:  Is the COVID19 vaccine really free? 

ANSWER: Yes.

SOURCES:

  • The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS)
  • The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
  • "COVID-19 Vaccination Program Provider Agreement"
  • The Federal Trade Commission (FTC)
  • The CARES Act

PROCESS:

While COVID-19 tests can range in price depending on what type of provider and what type of test you're taking, the COVID-19 vaccines themselves won't cost you money. 

Both the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and the CDC confirm you don't have to pay for any of the vaccines on the market, thanks to stipulations laid out in the CARES Act legislation this past spring.

The legislation protects insurers from applying what's known as "cost-sharing", aka co-payments and deductibles from occurring. It also helps protect doctors and pharmacies from billing patients for the costs, even if you might not have health insurance. 

Another layer of protection: the CDC also mandates that vaccine providers must sign a "COVID-19 Vaccination Program Provider Agreement", which states they must not bill patients for the vaccines and the cost of administering them. It's an added layer of protection.


If the vaccine is free, why am I being asked to show an insurance card?

While you won't have to pay out of pocket, you might be asked for insurance information when you register for a vaccine appointment. But why?

"The federal government is providing the vaccine free of charge to people living in the United States," writes the CDC on their COVID-19 vaccine commonly asked questions list. " However, your vaccination provider may bill your insurance company, Medicaid, or Medicare for an administration fee. Vaccination providers can be reimbursed for this by the patient’s public or private insurance company or, for uninsured patients, by Provider Relief Fund. No one can be denied a vaccine if they are unable to pay the vaccine administration."

Even so, if you get a vaccine shot from your doctor or places like urgent care, make sure to double-check with your provider about other fees they might charge outside of administering the shot.

Beware of scams

If you've been told you can pay to bump up your appointments or buy a vaccination slot outright, the Federal Trade Commission warns you you're likely getting scammed. 

"If you get a call, text, email — or even someone knocking on your door — claiming they can get you early access to the vaccine, STOP, that’s a scam," reads an FTC blogpost advising consumers against the scams. The post also lays out some more signs to beware of:

  • You can’t pay to put your name on a list to get the vaccine.
  • You can’t pay to get early access to the vaccine.
  • No one from a vaccine distribution site or health care payer, like a private insurance company, will call you asking for your Social Security number or your credit card or bank account information to sign you up to get the vaccine.
  • Beware of providers offering other products, treatments, or medicines to prevent the virus. Check with your health care provider before paying for or receiving any COVID-19-related treatment.

"Don’t pay for a promise of vaccine access or share personal information," it continues, asking those who have seen suspicious messages to report them at ReportFraud.ftc.gov or to file a complaint with your state or territory attorney general through consumerresources.org.

RELATED: VERIFY: Here's the difference between the 3 COVID-19 vaccines

RELATED: How to make a COVID-19 vaccination appointment in DC, Maryland and Virginia

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