The COVID-19 vaccine is free because of the HRSA Uninsured Program. Scott Olson/Getty Images
  • According to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS), “COVID-19 vaccines are 100% free for every individual living in the United States — even if you do not have insurance.”
  • But many Americans are skeptical. This is not a surprise considering how expensive medical care is, especially for uninsured people.
  • The vaccine is free because of the HRSA Uninsured Program.

More than a year into the pandemic, Americans still have questions about life getting back to normal, whether to leave the mask at home and eating indoors at restaurants again.

But one thing Americans should not be unclear about is whether the vaccine is free.

The answer is yes. Yes, the vaccine is free. So why do some people still have questions?

It’s not a surprise that people are skeptical since nearly nothing in the U.S. healthcare system is free — especially if you are one of the 27.5 million people who do not have health insurance.

When the government promises that the COVID-19 vaccine is free for everyone yet still asks people to bring their insurance information to the appointment, many people in the United States hesitate, while others refuse to show up.

So let’s clear things up right now.

Is the COVID-19 vaccine free?

Short answer: Yes. According to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS), “COVID-19 vaccines are 100% free for every individual living in the United States — even if you do not have insurance.”

Why does my doctor ask for my insurance information if the vaccine is free?

The vaccine is free because of the HRSA Uninsured Program. It’s part of legislation that includes the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, the Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, and the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations ACT (CRRSA). Through this legislation, the HHS provides claims reimbursement to healthcare professionals to test and treat uninsured individuals.

“The vaccine is free for all. However, it is able to be free as a special arrangement between the insurance, the manufacturers, and the federal government,” said Dr. Jordan Tishler, an emergency physician and medical cannabis expert in Massachusetts. “There are various reasons why insurance questions are asked when receiving the COVID vaccine. Some amount of the vaccine cost may be recovered from insurance. This all happens behind the scenes without the patient involved.”

What do I do if I’m still not sure?

You will not have to pay for a COVID-19 vaccine, regardless of whether you have health insurance. But before your appointment, you can call the doctor’s office and tell them you either do not have insurance or want to confirm that the vaccine will be free.

The HHS suggests that you confirm that the healthcare professional you will be seeing is participating in the HRSA Uninsured Program — and they will be.

“I think Americans at present are confused about many things to do with COVID and are generally distrusting of our government. I suspect that in certain circles, these concerns have been amplified by misinformation aimed at undermining the credibility of the medical establishment, as well as the government,” said Tishler.

What do I do if I still receive a bill?

Contact your healthcare professional, says the HHS. The government reimburses healthcare professionals who are part of the HRSA COVID-19 Uninsured Program for vaccines and other COVID-related services, such as testing. This means that they cannot send you a balance bill, so you should not receive a bill. 

“Regardless of your insurance status, providers cannot charge you for the COVID-19 vaccine or administration of the COVID-19 vaccine,” writes the HHS. “If you experience or witness any potential violations of this requirement, you can report the matter to the Office of the Inspector General, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, by calling 1-800-HHS-TIPS or the website TIPS.HHS.GOV.”

“Everyone — with very minor medical exemptions — should be vaccinated,” Tishler added. “The data are conclusive.”

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