COVID vaccine fee irks patient

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 7/11/2022 8:57:21 PM
Modified: 7/11/2022 8:57:06 PM

LEBANON — Matt Barnes said he didn’t even sit down when he got his COVID-19 booster at Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center in December.

But in spite of the initial ease of getting the jab, Barnes, a 50-year-old Strafford resident, said Dartmouth Health — against federal rules — continues to ask him to pay for it.

A request for payment of $64.01, including $.01 in pharmacy costs and $64 in “preventative care services,” continues to pop up on his account. 

“I'm obviously offended by this,” Barnes, a tech executive, said. “I really will spend thousands of dollars to sue these people.”

DH, and other health care providers, are allowed by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to bill insurance companies or the government for an administration fee for COVID-19 vaccines, but they are not allowed to bill patients directly.

Barnes has private insurance through Aetna, but at least thus far the company has declined to pay the vaccine bill.

“Vaccines were paid for with taxpayer dollars and will be given free of charge to all people living in the United States, regardless of insurance or immigration status,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s website. “COVID-19 vaccination is an important tool to help stop the pandemic.”

People in New Hampshire without insurance are eligible for the Medicaid COVID-19 Group, available on, which fully covers the cost of COVID-19 vaccination, testing and treatment for people who don’t otherwise have insurance coverage, Jake Leon, a spokesman for the New Hampshire Department of Human Services, said. Providers can help vaccine recipients enroll in this program, he said.

In a grid on its website, Dartmouth Health indicates that it does not charge for COVID-19 vaccines.

It also does not bill for a “facility charge” for COVID-19 vaccines, but it does bill insurers for a $64 “professional charge.”

Citing privacy rules, Cassidy Smith, a DH spokeswoman, declined to comment on how many DHMC patients have received such bills. But she said that if a patient were to receive “a bill for the vaccine it would have been in error, possibly caused by an automated process.”

Smith said patients who receive bills from Dartmouth Health for COVID-19 vaccine administration fees should contact DH’s customer service office at 844-808-0730 “to have the erroneous bill resolved.”

At that number, an automated voice picks up and offers callers two choices: pay a bill or speak with a representative.

Asked how the hospital could bill someone even 1 cent for the vaccine, which is supposed to be free, Smith again directed patients to call the customer service phone line to resolve concerns.

Barnes, who received his first two COVID-19 shots at a Kinney Drugs in Bradford, Vt., at no charge, said he felt no need to call DH’s customer service number since it’s the same billing office that he’s been communicating with electronically.

In a recent back-and-forth with a customer service representative via the myDH portal, Barnes asked that DH remove the charge and threatened legal action.

In response, the department representative recommended that he contact his insurance company.

“You’d think you’d get a more considerate response,” Barnes said.

When he declined to contact his insurance company, another customer service representative wrote to say that they had sent the “account to our billing team for further review. Please allow time for processing.”

Patients who are charged an administration fee should contact their provider and ask them to withdraw the bill and file a claim with their insurance provider, as they are generally required to cover all costs and charges related to COVID-19 vaccinations, a CMS spokesperson said.

Potential violations of the requirements for COVID-19 vaccination providers can be reported to the Office of the Inspector General, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, by calling 1-800-HHS-TIPS or via the website TIPS.HHS.GOV.

Nora Doyle-Burr can be reached at or 603-727-3213.

Valley News

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