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My $95 Flu Shot


FluShotBillSteven Brill has a must-read cover story in Time this week detailing how the federal government’s refusal to set rates for procedures, services and products means we all pay more for health care. I found this out first-hand last fall when my doctor tried to charge me $95 for a flu shot.

I was in for a routine physical and mentioned, “One of these days I need to go to CVS and get a flu shot.” She said, “Oh, I can give you one right now.” She grabbed a vaccine and gave me the shot – the whole process lasted about a minute. There was no discussion of price – I assumed it was either free or they’d charge me what the pharmacy does, about $25.

A month later I got the bill you see here.  

My health insurance provider doesn’t cover flu shots at all, so I called the doctor’s office and told them I had no intention of paying $95 for a flu shot. I said I’d pay the $33 for the shot, but not $62 for the privilege of getting it. It took another call to remind the office, but they took it off my bill.

Considering the flu costs $10.4 billion in treatment alone annually, never mind untold billions in lost productivity, we shouldn’t be charging people for flu shots at all – we should be giving them away. But we invest precious little in preventive care – there’s no money to be made in keeping people healthy.

It’s just one tiny window into the unnecessarily high costs of America’s health care system as our multi-payer system offers multiple chances for graft. A single-payer, Medicare-for-all style system would provide much more effective cost-control and oversight. Obamacare takes some steps in the right direction, but the Obama administration chose to cut the best deal they could with insurance companies rather than take them on.

The best health care in the world? Please. Whenever I hear that, I know the person talking has a staffer to make their appointments, has never had to wait hours for treatment, and never has to sort out their own bills.

  • Jim B

    Saw him on Charlie Rose show and he claims hospitals and drug companies are the biggest villains in the health care business. An example is a 6 buck charge by the hospital for a small paper cup to hold a couple of aspirin.

    I guess Obamacare doesn’t cover or attempt to cover the huge markups.

  • pontoon

    drove me absolutely crazy.  I don’t have health insurance…they know that.  Had to pay $99 before they would let me past the front door to see the Doc which is fine.  I paid cash, asked for a receipt.  Can’t give you a receipt until you check out…but I just gave you cash and have no way to prove it unless you give me a receipt.  No receipt was forthcoming because their policy is to give receipts at check out only…a bit odd since they require everyone to pay up front.

    After a two hours in the waiting room, and another 1/2 hour in the exam room, a nurse practitioner student with her teacher came in….not a Doc.  She explained who she was, asked if it was okay to see me and then she and the Doc would come back.  I agreed.  After all I already knew what was wrong.

    After the exam she said, “The Doc and I will be back shortly.”  After another 20 minute wait, she comes back with prescriptions…by herself, never saw a Doc.  She says, “I know you are self-pay so we’ve written these so you can take them to Walmart and get them filled for $4.”  I say, “Hey, thanks.  I appreciate that.”  Off to Walmart to fill the scrips…none of the three are $4 scrips as written.  Wally World says, if they do this, that and something else instead of these costing $172, you can get two of them for $4 each.  Back to the Doc’s office I go…explain that the scrips are written incorrectly for the $4 meds…they change the scrips.  Back to Walmart…one scrip still wrong. Walmart calls the Doc’s office.  Doc says they will fax another scrip.  Wait another hour….still no new scrip.  Exhausted, sick and too tired to care anymore, I pay $67 for one scrip, $4 for the other….still waiting for the third.  

    Our healthcare system is so messed up.  The problem with one of the scrips was tablet versus capsule–translated into $70 versus $4; or how another med was packaged in a 10 pack versus a 12 pack.  It is nuts….all the while I can hardly hold my head up, just want the meds so I can go home to bed.