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"Nightmare," Some planning to get new COVID-19 vaccine getting bills for nearly $200

Patients charged hundreds amid bumpy rollout for new COVID-19 shots
Patients charged hundreds amid bumpy rollout for new COVID-19 shots 02:32

ACTON – When Glen Cote of Acton drove to his appointment at CVS for the new COVID-19 vaccine, he was shocked to receive a text on his phone minutes before his appointment, letting him know that the vaccine would cost $190.99.

"Nightmare is the first word that comes to mind," he explained to WBZ-TV. Cote is covered by MassHealth, the state's program for Medicaid.

The new COVID-19 shot was approved by the FDA and CDC about a week ago, with the vaccine to be shipped to area pharmacies. Signs outside many CVS stores read "FREE FLU & COVID-19 vaccines here."

Instead, posts on social media show that several people nationwide are getting charged for the shot, anywhere between $125 and $190.

Glen Cote canceled his COVID booster appointment at CVS after getting a bill for $190.99. CBS Boston

The new vaccines by Pfizer and Moderna are supposed to target newer variants. Experts have recommended Americans get them along with their annual flu shots this year. 

COVID-19 vaccines were free, covered by the federal government, until the Public Health Emergency ended earlier this year. 

COVID-19 vaccines should be covered by most private and public health insurances.

According to both CVS and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the new vaccines have a new billing code for insurances – which has not been updated in all insurance plans, leading to the erroneous charge for people seeking out a vaccine in this first week. 

"Some payers are still updating their systems and may not yet be set up to cover the updated COVID-19 vaccines. If this happens, our pharmacy teams can help patients schedule an appointment for a later date," a CVS Spokesperson said. 

Glen Cote is disappointed in the lack of a smooth rollout, and a lack of answers which led him to reach out to WBZ. "I thought that we're supposed to take care of each other in the richest country on earth, and I can't even get a COVID booster to keep myself and my friends and family safe," he said.

His concern is the impact these planning hurdles could have on people in more complicated situations than his. He has spent hours on the phone trying to figure out the issue. "I'm some schmuck with a college degree in an Instagram account and there are people – like imagine if I had two kids and two part-time jobs or like two full-time jobs or something," he said. 

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