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Swine flu vaccine costs to be subsidized

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POSTED: August 7, 2009 9:44 a.m.
Everyone may soon be getting a shot in the arm for protection against swine flu as health insurance providers and public health officials prepare for a national vaccine program.
The federal government decided to foot the bill this year for a single vaccine for everyone, but people would be responsible for paying the costs to get the vaccine.
Reports estimate the mass vaccination would cost at least $1 billion.
“The messaging thus far indicates there should be no charge to the public for the vaccine,” explained Dr. Diane Weems, chief medical officer for the Coastal Health District. “Typically, however, there is an administration fee charged for a vaccination on top of the actual charge for the vaccine itself.”  
A vaccine is not expected to be available until mid-September.
“As of this [Monday] afternoon, I had not received confirmatory information whether or not public health would be able to charge an administration fee,” Weems said.
Plans are to give high-risk populations of people the vaccine first.
“Most doses in current production, testing are injectable, but efforts continue to develop a nasal spray,” Weems said.
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Georgia, the optional, company-provided insurance for all Liberty County employees, announced Monday it will cover vaccination administrative costs for its members.
“It is not expected that there will be a shortage of H1N1 vaccine, but flu vaccine availability and demand can be unpredictable and there is some possibility that initially, the vaccine will be available in limited quantities,” according to Cheryl Monkhouse, BCBSGA spokesperson.
She and others were unsure what administrative costs will be.
“It would be extremely difficult for us to provide cost estimates surrounding the upcoming flu season’s impact,” Monkhouse said. “Administrative costs vary depending on where the vaccine is dispensed, physician’s office, clinic, hospital, etc. so again, it is difficult to provide specifics.”
Joye Burton, spokesperson with the state Community Health Department, confirmed it is still too early to tell.
But Dennis Engle, district sales coordinator for the local Aflac, said clients can be covered for any type of vaccination and immunization in a plan for $50 to $60 a year.
“The basic hospital and accident policy does cover something for a vaccine,” Engle said.
The novel flu strain has become a pandemic since sweeping the nation in late April.
The H1N1 flu vaccine will not replace the regular seasonal flu.
“We have approximately three million members throughout Georgia and the majority of them have vaccine coverage, but we always encourage our members to call the toll-free number on their cards to confirm their specific coverage,” Monkhouse said.
 

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