NYAG secures refunds for patients billed for COVID vaccines

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By Dan Sears

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The New York Attorney General’s office has secured refunds for several hundred patients who were wrongfully billed for COVID-19 vaccines by Northwell Health-GoHealth Urgent Care. 

The AG’s office found that Northwell-GoHealth wrongly charged up to 731 patients a total of $14,996 in improper fees for COVID vaccines. The company also sent 72 unpaid bills for COVID vaccines to collection. 

As a result of an agreement with the AG’s office, Northwell-GoHealth has reimbursed all New York patients who were wrongly charged. The company also agreed to strengthen employee compliance with applicable laws for COVID-19 vaccine billing and pay a $25,000 penalty, according to a statement from the AG’s office. 

“During the pandemic state of emergency, COVID-19 vaccines were free to all who wanted them,” Attorney General Letitia James said in the statement. “Clinics should be careful in ensuring that New Yorkers were not improperly charged fees for these vaccines and should take steps to refund any payments wrongfully charged and received. I encourage anyone who believes they may have been billed for a COVID-19 vaccine that was supposed to be free to reach out to my office.” 

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Under the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) Provider Agreement regarding COVID-19 vaccine distribution, which was in effect until Sept. 12, 2023, providers such as Northwell-GoHealth were required to administer COVID-19 vaccines at no out-of-pocket cost to the patient, the AG’s office said. But after receiving complaints from people who paid bills for the vaccines, the AG’s office launched an investigation into Northwell-GoHealth, which operates 57 urgent care clinics in the state. 

Due to administrative errors, Northwell-GoHealth instead charged as many as 731 New Yorkers who received COVID-19 vaccines at their clinics approximately $28 per vaccine dose. As a result, 451 patients or their guarantors made out-of-pocket payments to satisfy charges they should not have received, and unpaid accounts associated with 72 vaccine doses were sent to collections for reimbursement, according to the AG’s office. 

“Northwell Health-GoHealth Urgent Care is proud of the patient care we provided during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, including the vaccination clinics we opened at several of our urgent care locations,” Vivek Taparia, regional president of Northwell Health-GoHealth, said in a company statement. “While we provided COVID vaccinations without any out-of-pocket charges to patients, a small number of these early vaccine recipients inadvertently received statements or made payments. Northwell-GoHealth refunded all affected patient accounts and has cooperated with the New York State attorney general throughout this matter. We apologize for any inconvenience this has caused our patients.” 

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