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Residents say Houston clinic charged cash for COVID-19 vaccine

March 5, 2021. Summarized by summa-bot.

Compression ratio: 30.4%. 1 min read.

The COVID-19 vaccine is supposed to be free for everyone with "no out-of-pocket cost" for patients, but two Houstonians said they were asked to pay for the vaccine at a West Houston clinic.

Although providers can charge an administrative fee, the state said the fee cannot be charged to a patient, but should go through the patient's insurance provider or through a federal reimbursement program if the patient is uninsured. In a phone call with 13 Investigates, the clinic didn't deny it had charged customers $25. The clinic's assistant medical director told Oberg they were confused about the rules early on and that the clinic was waiting for guidance from the state. She said the reason they collected cash was because they couldn't swipe a credit card for everyone in line that day. Thomas said there were so many people waiting at the clinic the morning she arrived to get the vaccine that the line wrapped around the building and doubled back on itself. The clinic shouldn't have charged any of those people in line for the vaccine.

For every person the clinic charged $25, that was $8. 06 more than Medicare would have reimbursed. But the state health department said the rules were clearly in Centra Clinic's provider agreement to receive the vaccine. 13 Investigates asked the state health department on Feb. 11 about their concerns regarding being charged for the vaccine. Five days later, Texas DSHS Commissioner John Hellerstedt sent a letter to the clinic letting them know charging vaccine recipients is "not permitted. ""I sincerely hope that these complaints are unfounded but if they are not, your facility's future allocations of COVID-19 vaccine will be impacted," Hellerstedt said in a Feb. 16 letter to the clinic.

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