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PriceCheck: How Much for That Flu Shot?

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 (Lisa Pickoff-White/KQED)

It's that time of year. And I don't mean pray for rain (although on the health desk, we're doing that, too). Flu season is ramping up.

To protect yourself, the Centers for Disease Control recommends that everyone over 6 months get a flu vaccine. While not 100 percent effective, it can keep you from getting the flu -- or, if you do get sick, it can mean a more mild course of illness and help you avoid serious complications, including hospitalization and even death.

When it comes to flu shots, we're also concerned about health care costs. On our "PriceCheck" project, we're crowdsourcing prices for everything from mammograms to colonoscopies.

Now we're looking at cost of flu shots.  We want to know what you were charged, what your insurer paid and what you paid (if anything) for your flu vaccine.

Under the Affordable Care Act, flu shots are supposed to be covered by your insurance, with no copay or other costs out of your pocket. But the Department of Health and Human Services specifies to check with your insurance company in advance. "Some insurance plans only cover vaccines given by your doctor or at a limited set of locations," HHS says.


So, what's your story? We want to know. A Slate reporter detailed the hell he went through in trying to find out why coverage for his flu shot was declined. It wasn't supposed to be.

If you go to your own doctor, the shot should be covered, but plenty of people might rather get the flu shot while they're out running errands and pop into any one of a number of big box stores or pharmacies that offer them. Here are a few places, with currently-advertised prices:

  • Walgreens: $31.99 per dose for ages 2+; mentions insurance, although does not explicitly say plans are accepted
  • Target: $24.99 per shot; "most insurance accepted"
  • Costco: $14.99; "many insurance companies cover immunizations given at the pharmacy"
  • Walmart: $25.00; "most insurance plans accepted"
  • Safeway: While Safeway does not show on its website how much they'll charge, it does offer a "10% off groceries" coupon (unless you live in New Jersey, sorry).

How Much Did You Pay?

The prices above are "charged prices."  These may differ from what your insurer pays -- and then there's the question of out-of-pocket costs for you. And are these large chains even "in network" for you?

We want to know -- after you get your flu shot (or if you've already done it), please visit our PriceCheck page. On the left side of the form, type in "Flu shot" under "procedure or supplies" then continue down the form filling in where you had received the vaccine and, perhaps most importantly, the three cost items: "total price charged;" "insurance paid;" and "you paid." Please tell us more about your experience in the "comments" box -- and do leave an email address so we can contact you if we have questions.

Thanks for helping us make health costs transparent. We'll write in a future post about what we learn regarding flu shot costs.

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