April 21, 2021 329 PM
FAR WEST TEXAS – Two area hospitals have stopped charging out-of-pocket fees to COVID-19 vaccine patients who don’t have insurance and are offering refunds for wrongly collected payments. This week, Big Bend Regional Medical Center and Pecos County Memorial Hospital issued statements regarding their administrative fees for COVID-19 vaccines, which were against guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
In March, Pecos County Memorial Hospital in Fort Stockton posted on Facebook that it was charging a $15 administration fee for the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. That was despite CDC and Texas Department of State Health Services directives that fees could be charged to insurance providers, but not to individuals at the point of service, with the CDC saying providers “must administer COVID-19 vaccine at no out-of-pocket cost” and cannot deny the vaccine to anyone who is eligible.
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services also laid out explicit rules in February stating that since vaccines were being provided free of cost to vaccinators, “vaccine providers are prohibited from charging patients any amount for administration of the vaccine.”
After The Big Bend Sentinel reported on those charges and the CDC guidelines, some patients at Alpine’s Big Bend Regional Medical Center said they had also paid administrative fees to receive their vaccine.
Since March, both hospitals have reversed course. This week, PCMH Chief Executive Officer Betsy Briscoe said that the large majority of vaccines were charged to insurance companies as allowed. “Those who paid out-of-pocket either requested to pay rather than file with their insurance, offered to pay out of appreciation or, in a few cases, were inadvertently charged,” Briscoe said this week.
Ruth Hucke, a spokesperson for BBRMC, said this week that the Alpine hospital found that some self-pay patients “were mistakenly charged due to an administrative error. The system error has been corrected and we have refunded the administration charge for these self-pay patients.”
Those charged at PCMH “were refunded several weeks ago,” Briscoe said. “If an individual has questions regarding this, they should call our clinic at 432-336-2291.”
In Alpine, Hucke said, “If someone has not received their reimbursement, please call 432-837-3447 and ask for Edmar Garcia to correct your mailing address.”
Have you been charged a fee to receive a vaccine against coronavirus and had trouble being reimbursed? Reach out to us at email@example.com to share your experience.