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State Funding Shortages Limit Free Childhood Vaccine Supplies

January 15, 2009

Due to a change in policy, the Maine Immunization Program now only supplies free childhood vaccines to those who qualify under the Vaccines for Children (VFC) program. They include those covered by MaineCare, Native Americans, those who have no insurance coverage, or children with insurance coverage that does not include vaccines.
Prior to the change, all Maine children under 19 were eligible for free vaccines from the state. However, now because of the new policy, the state will no longer provide free vaccines for children covered by policies that include vaccine coverage.
As a result, hospitals must purchase vaccines from private sources to inoculate children who do not qualify for free vaccines, and will be billing insurance companies to pay for the vaccines. 
While many children will still qualify for free vaccines, those with vaccine coverage whose parents have not met their deductible will have to pay for the vaccines, up to the limit of their deductible.
“Even with this change, we encourage all parents to have their children vaccinated,” said Nancy Starbuck, MDI Hospital’s Director of Physician Practices. “The benefits of timely immunization far outweigh the cost, both for the individual and for the public in general.”
The new policy change has not only placed a potential financial burden on people who do not qualify for the free vaccines, it has also added to the administrative expense of health care providers. “Our practices now have to purchase an additional vaccine supply from a private source for children who don’t qualify for VFC vaccines, and we have to incur an administrative expense associated with billing,” said Ms. Starbuck.
“We strongly encourage people with private insurance to check with their insurance company before coming in for an appointment to determine whether or not their policy covers childhood vaccines,” said Ms. Starbuck. “If their policy does not cover vaccines, they qualify for free immunization and we administer vaccines from our free state-supplied stock.
“However, if they assume that their policy covers it and we administer from our private stock of vaccines only to find out that their policy doesn’t cover it, they are liable for that cost,” explained Ms. Starbuck. “We can not, legally, review an individual’s policy for coverage before they come in, so it is very important that people know what their policy covers before they come in”
Current recommended vaccines by the Centers for Disease Control, American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Academy of Family Physicians include childhood diptheria, tetanus, acellular pertussis, polio, measles, mumps, rubella, varicella (chicken pox), hepatitis A and B, pneumococcal, Haemophilus influenza B, and meningococcal.

Posted in 2009