HONOLULU (KHON2) — Hawaii Medical Service Association is telling members it is covering the updated COVID-19 vaccine for the fall and winter after some people said they paid out of pocket for the shot, HMSA official said a technical issue on its end is being blamed for the confusion.
The commercial roll-out of the updated COVID-19 vaccine faced some hiccups for HMSA members like Darryl Kim from Mililani. He called two Longs Drugs locations and both pharmacies told him HMSA was not covering the new COVID shot.
Kim said, “Both places told me that HMSA is not covering the shots at this moment so the price I would have to pay is like $190.”
The HMSA Vice President and Chief Medical Officer Dr. Stefanie Park said this was an error due to a lag in their system as they tried to keep up with the latest vaccine information from the federal government.
“It happened so much quicker than we thought for better or for worse,” Park said. “The vaccines were approved last week Monday and then CMS, the federal government, released the rates on Thursday and so it was a really quick turnaround for us to set up all of these things and get them into our system.”
Park said staff worked to input vaccine and administrative fees into its system to properly process the claims, they also clarified HMSA’s coverage of the vaccine with local pharmacies.
Park said, “Please don’t turn away our members you know please give them the vaccine hold on to the claims and we will resolve them with you on the back end.”
A Longs Drugs spokesperson said they are working with pharmacy teams to reschedule appointments for those members who were asked to pay out of pocket.
Meanwhile, Kaiser Permanente is expecting its supply of the updated COVID-19 vaccine to reach its clinics soon to start offering them at its clinics across the state next week.
The Hawaii Department of Health echoed the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s recommendation for people six months of age and older to get the shot, especially as the holiday season approaches.
For its part, HMSA said the issue has been resolved, but some may have already paid for their COVID shot.
Park said, “They should work with the pharmacy that charged them in order to reverse that charge and reimburse them.”
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Members are encouraged to call HMSA if they encounter further issues.