Q: I volunteer at two of the free clinics in Champaign-Urbana for the uninsured or under-insured. Once again, everyone will be encouraged to get a flu immunization, which is usually covered by insurance. Will any agency this year offer free or even reduced-cost flu shots? It’s a much-needed community service/prevention issue.
A: People with health insurance can get no-charge flu shots because the Affordable Care Act requires insurers to provide them without charging a co-payment or co-insurance.
Unfortunately, there are still many uninsured people in the area — more than 10,000 in Champaign County alone by latest estimates — and flu shots this year are running around $40 or more.
Two options in Champaign County for the uninsured include Promise Healthcare (the parent system of Frances Nelson Health Center) and the Champaign-Urbana Public Health District. However, you need to be a Promise Healthcare patient or public health district client.
“Yes, we offer the flu vaccine for our patients, children and adults,” said Promise Healthcare Executive Director NANCY GREENWALT. “It is generally included in the price of the visit. So if a patient is low-income, uninsured and falls into the scale of our sliding-fee scale, the nominal fee would be $10.”
The sliding-fee scale is available on Promise Healthcare’s website in PDF form, Greenwalt said, and “we welcome new patients daily.”
Health district spokeswoman AMY ROBERTS said it can also provide flu shots on a sliding-scale-fee basis for uninsured children and adults.
However, “currently, we are only offering vaccines to people who come in for our other services,” she said.
The Vermilion County Health Department charges $38 for a flu shot but will provide them at a discount to kids and teens 18 and under for about $26 if they’re uninsured and paying out of pocket, according to department Administrator DOUG TOOLE.
Another possibility for people who are financially eligible for Carle’s financial assistance programs is receiving a flu shot in Carle provider offices. To receive discounted or free care, patients must participate in an application process and be approved.
“While we do not offer free or discounted flu shots, Carle believes the cost of health care should not stop anyone from receiving necessary care,” Carle spokeswoman JAMIE MULLIN said. “Those patients who qualify may be able to receive free or discounted care through one of our financial-assistance programs.”
Flu shots are advised for nearly everyone 6 months old and up, and waiting isn’t advisable with flu season beginning soon. It takes two weeks after a shot for immunity to kick in.