Reminds the public that COVID-19 vaccinations are available at no cost
SACRAMENTO – California Attorney General Rob Bonta issued an alert advising the public that they should not be charged for their COVID-19 vaccination and warning vaccination providers not to ask individuals to pay to receive their vaccine. The Attorney General issued the advice alongside Acting U.S. Attorney Phillip A. Talbert and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General (HHS-OIG) after receiving credible allegations that providers have charged patients as much as $45 in out-of-pocket fees to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.
“COVID-19 has taken a toll on every aspect of our lives, but we are finally turning a corner and must continue working together to get California back on track,” said Attorney General Bonta. “Vaccines are a key component of that plan. Unfortunately, some vaccine providers are choosing to charge for something that should be free to everyone in our community. Charging for a COVID-19 vaccination creates a barrier to low-income families, including communities who have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic. Let me be clear: COVID-19 vaccines are available at no charge to all who qualify.”
“Charging people to get the COVID-19 vaccine or denying people from getting the vaccine if they cannot pay is a risk to public health and safety, and disproportionately impacts at-risk communities and communities of limited means,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Talbert. “This violation of the terms and conditions of CDC’s vaccination program is also a potential violation of the civil False Claims Act and other civil and criminal statutes. Our office has sent multiple cease and desist letters to vaccine providers that they must immediately stop this practice. All vaccine providers must comply with the agreement, and I urge members of the public to report those providers who do not.”
“Providers participating in the CDC’s Vaccination Program must administer the COVID-19 vaccine at no cost to recipients. In addition, providers may not charge for office visits or require additional medical services to receive the vaccine,” said HHS-OIG Special Agent in Charge Steven J. Ryan. “While the nation continues to address the ongoing pandemic, it is imperative that providers adhere to the terms of the program so as to not dissuade individuals from obtaining the COVID-19 vaccine.”
Providers participating in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) COVID-19 Vaccination Program are required to sign an agreement to receive and dispense vaccines. These providers may seek appropriate reimbursement from a public or private program or plan that covers COVID-19 vaccine administration fees, however, they may not seek any reimbursement from the vaccine recipient. In accordance with their agreement with the CDC, providers must administer the vaccines regardless of a recipient’s ability to pay.
Providers who violate the CDC’s agreement by billing COVID-19 vaccine recipients or denying an individual a vaccination because of their inability to pay may be suspended or terminated from the CDC COVID-19 Vaccination Program, and face potential criminal and civil penalties.
If you know or suspect that any healthcare provider or pharmacy is improperly charging for the COVID-19 vaccine, please report to 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227) or www.Medicare.Gov/Medicarecomplaintform. You can also file a complaint with the California Attorney General’s office at www.oag.ca.gov/report.