Dr. Allison Arwady

Are COVID Vaccinations Free? Top Chicago Health Official Addresses Concerns

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Chicago health officials are reminding residents that the coronavirus vaccine itself is free, but the city is also evaluating what it can do when clinics pass on administrative costs to patients when administering the treatment.

During a press conference on Tuesday afternoon, Dr. Allison Arwady, commissioner of the Chicago Department of Public Health, said that patients aren’t allowed to be charged for the vaccine itself because of the agreements between the federal government and companies and clinics that are in charge of administering the vaccine.

“I want people in Chicago to hear that they should not be billed directly for receiving a COVID vaccine, unless they're receiving other services that are associated with that visit,” she said.

The vaccine itself is delivered to clinics free of charge through agreements between pharmaceutical companies and the federal government, according to Arwady. She did caution residents that there are other small costs that could be incurred if a patient receives other treatment or services during their visit to receive the vaccine.

“Where people are seeing a provider for something that goes beyond the COVID vaccine, like if (they’re) seeing their primary care doctor and having my regular check in and getting lab work done, and then get the COVID vaccine as part of that visit, you still are able to bill for that visit,” she said. “It gets complicated relatively quickly.”

Arwady says the issue of additional charges related to the vaccine has occurred most frequently when patients visit urgent care clinics and other similar facilities for treatment, but that the CDPH is looking into those issues.

“It gets into a gray line where you're starting to have more medical care, but we are pulling together the urgent cares. We’re aware of it and we’re looking at it,” she said.

Arwady says that the CDPH is in a difficult position where it cannot directly regulate clinics that pass on administrative costs to patients when it comes to the COVID vaccine, but that the department can make decisions about which clinics receive doses of the vaccine, which could be used if necessary to ensure that residents are not being over-charged for treatments.

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