New Yorkers Experiencing Issues with COVID-19 Vaccine Supply and Insurance Coverage
Many New Yorkers have been eagerly seeking out the updated COVID-19 vaccine, specifically tailored to this year’s dominant variant of the coronavirus. Last week, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) approved the shot, leading to a rush of individuals wanting to get vaccinated.
However, while some have had no trouble securing appointments, others have faced last-minute cancellations at chain pharmacies. These cancellations have been attributed to either delayed vaccine supplies or insurance issues.
According to the CDC, insurance coverage for the COVID-19 vaccine should not be a problem. The vaccine is meant to be free for everyone, either through their health plan or the federal Bridge Access Program. The program, which launched last Thursday, aims to ensure that the vaccine is accessible to all individuals. The CDC has recommended the updated shot for everyone over the age of 6 months, with most health plans required to cover CDC-recommended vaccines under the Affordable Care Act. Uninsured individuals or those with copays can turn to the Bridge Access Program, which will be available until the end of the year.
However, some New Yorkers, like Brooklynite Hannah Bae, have ended up paying out of pocket for the vaccine due to insurance issues. Bae said she was charged $190 for a Moderna shot at a CVS pharmacy after her appointment was canceled because her insurance plan had not approved coverage for the vaccine. Bae said she was unaware of the Bridge Access Program until she shared her experience online. State health officials have stated that CVS should have been able to bill her insurance and emphasized that no one should have to pay out of pocket for the vaccine.
The rollout of the updated COVID-19 vaccine has led to confusion and headaches for individuals across the country. Unlike previous versions, manufacturers Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech are sending doses directly to pharmacies and healthcare providers, bypassing the federal government’s distribution process. Large pharmacy chains were among the first to receive the vaccine, while publicly-run sites, nonprofits, and some independent pharmacies are still waiting to launch their vaccination efforts.
The insurance issues experienced by New Yorkers like Hannah Bae and Jennifer Bristol are not isolated incidents. Privately run medical databases have reportedly failed to update their billing codes in a timely manner for insurers and pharmacies, leading to delays in coverage for the new vaccine. While the state health department has promised that plans will reimburse consumers if they were inappropriately charged, it remains unclear whether insurers will honor this promise.
CVS has pointed the finger at insurers, stating that some payers are still updating their systems and may not yet be set up to cover the updated COVID-19 vaccines. The pharmacy chain has assured that appointments can be rescheduled for a later date if coverage is not available. Additionally, CVS locations are participating in the Bridge Access Program, which offers the vaccine at no cost to uninsured individuals.
For those seeking the vaccine, health clinics run by the city and nonprofits are starting to gain access to doses. NYC Health + Hospitals facilities will have vaccine appointments available starting October 2nd, with patients able to book appointments now. Independent pharmacies, like Colombo’s Pharmacy in Queens, have also been waiting for their vaccine supplies to arrive. Patients are advised to keep checking back and to call ahead to ensure that providers listed on vaccination search sites actually have doses in stock.
New Yorkers have encountered appointment cancellations at CVS and Walgreens due to a lack of vaccine supply. Individuals have shared their experiences of appointments being canceled, leading to a frustrating and disheartening process. While CVS and Walgreens encourage patients to call ahead for the best experience, delays in supply have affected a small number of locations.
As the vaccine rollout continues, it is crucial for vaccine providers, insurers, and pharmacies to address these issues promptly and ensure that individuals can access the vaccine without facing financial burdens or appointment cancellations.