KPRC 2 Investigates: Customers charged for ‘free’ COVID vaccines

The KPRC 2 Investigative team is looking into charges that one major Houston hospital system is billing patients.

You might want to check your medical bills. COVID vaccinations are supposed to be free for anyone 5 years old and up. But some health care providers are charging. The KPRC 2 Investigative team is looking into charges that one major Houston hospital system is billing patients.

COVID vaccines are free, but are you paying for them anyway?

The COVID vaccinations millions of Americans are getting were already paid for with taxpayer dollars. So if you receive a bill it’s like you’re paying twice. Nearly 57% of eligible Texans are fully vaccinated. That’s more than 40 million shots. While you do have to endure a jab, you shouldn’t be subjected to a bill like the one a KPRC 2 viewer sent us.

Linda McSwain received the Pfizer vaccine from UT-Health in late February. She went back in late March for the second dose. Months later, she was billed $42 listed as an admin fee for each shot and two cents or one penny for each dose.

McSwain called the billing department at UT-Health and sent our team this email:

“When I ask why I was being charged money for a vaccine that was free to everybody, I was told the vaccine was free but there is an administrative fee of $42 for each vaccine,” McSwain said.

But the CDC says “COVID-19 vaccination providers cannot: Charge you for a vaccine or charge you directly for any administration fees, copays, or coinsurance.”

Why were people charged for a COVID-19 vaccine?

Editor’s note: Due to a technical error, a previous version of this story did not show the statement from UT-Health. This has since been corrected and the entire statement is now available below.

When we contacted UT-Health a spokesperson declined to talk with us on camera but sent us this statement:

“UT-Health identified a billing error that resulted in a small number of patients receiving a bill for the administration of their COVID-19 vaccine. Any account balances related to the administrative fee were removed and any initial payments were refunded. We continue to monitor and refund any additional payments that are received for the erroneous charges.”

When McSwain checked her UT-Health account the next day it showed “no bills due at this time.”

Health care providers can bill your insurance company for reimbursement or if you go to the doctor for a vaccine *and* another service at the same time they can charge for the other service.

If you are charged for a COVID-19 vaccine, you can report the health care provider to the Texas Department of Health and Human Services for fraud. The phone number to call is 800-436-6184 and you can file a complaint here.

About the Author:

Passionate consumer advocate, mom of 3, addicted to coffee, hairspray and pastries.