Maryland and New Mexico launch hotlines to report charges for shots that are supposed to be free

States are setting up hotlines amid reports that some Americans are being charged for the COVID-19 vaccine, which is supposed to be free.

Maryland and New Mexico are the first two states to set up specific hotlines after hundreds of vaccine recipients said they received bills in the mail.

The federal government, which pays for every American’s shot, has also created its own phone number for people to report the bills. 

Meanwhile, attorneys generals in Colorado, New York and California have also launched investigations into fees being charged to vaccine recipients.  

There are reports of Americans receiving bills after being vaccinated for Covid-19. The vaccines are free of cost to Americans, with the federal government and insurance providers being responsible for covering costs associated. Cases seem to be disproportionately be happening in underserved communities. 

Vaccine providers are allowed to bill a person’s insurance after they receive the vaccine, but it is illegal for the insurance company to pass off those costs to the consumer.

Some providers argue that the federal government is not covering all costs associated with the vaccine, so it is fair to bill the vaccine recipient.  

‘It covers nurses, doctors, all of the things that it takes to set it up,’ Vincent Keane, CEO of Unity Health, a vaccine provider, told ABC News. 

‘The medical assistants that give out the vaccinations, they were pulled from seeing patients, so that costs us money.

‘The vaccines are free, but setting them up and doing them, transferring them – all of that costs money.’ 

The federal government wants to avoid anyone receiving bills for getting vaccinated, as it will be a deterrent to receiving the vaccine.

Many will be willing to receive the vaccine if it free of charge – as it is supposed to be in the United States – but will not be willing to pay to receive it, especially if the fees are as large as many other health care costs in the country. 

The bills also add to confusion about the vaccine that many may have.

Demand for the vaccine has stagnated in recent weeks, and some Americans being concerned about having to pay to receive a vaccine only hinders the effort

Demand for the vaccine has stagnated in recent weeks, and some Americans being concerned about having to pay to receive a vaccine only hinders the effort 

A survey from March found that seven million Americans may not get vaccinated as they fear it may cost them money. 

Americans fearful over the vaccines costs – even though there are not any – are more likely to be poorer and from minority communities. 

Many of the recipients of the bills seem to be in underserved communities as well.

For example, in Chicago, a city with a large population of Black people and people living in poverty, there are widespread reports of people being billed after getting vaccinated. 

An activist group in Nevada found that many in the Latino community were not getting vaccinated because they were confused about information regarding billing and insurance. 

There are also reports of people being told before receiving the vaccine that they must pay a fee.  

In Maryland, which set up a hotline to report these issues, some of the ‘arbitrary’ forms and information needed to receive a vaccine at different cites have confused residents in low-income areas. 

‘We have a health insurance system that’s fractured between the for-profit and non-profit and the government, and people are getting their vaccines from all kinds of different providers,’ said Carmen Balber, executive director of Consumer Watchdog, told ABC. 

‘That’s why you’re seeing different information being asked at different locations.’  

Currently, more than 60 percent of American adults have received at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine, and about half of the total U.S. population is fully vaccinated.

Health experts believe it will take between 75 and 80 percent of the population to get vaccinated to reach herd immunity. 

President Joe Biden has set a goal of getting 70 percent of Americans vaccinated by July 4.

Reaching those marks will be tough, though, as vaccine demand has plummeted in recent weeks, and with around 20 percent of Americans saying that they will not get the vaccine unless it is required of them, according to Kaiser Family Foundation data.

Adding an extra barrier of potential costs to the vaccine rollout is another hurdle the country does not need right now as it hopes to return to normal in the coming year.