After drinking a couple beers with a buddy a couple months ago, I dragged myself across the street to get a flu shot at Walgreens. Supposedly this season was one of the worst, and I had no desire to get swine flu. I hate needles. The insertion isn't what bothers me. What irks me is the uncomfortable feeling of liquid getting pushed into my veins as the injector tries to hold the needle still. I don't know how heroine users do it!
I actually didn't feel a thing this time around because I was a little tipsy. Perhaps you too should give needle injecting a go after a couple drinks (see doctor for professional medical advice). When I went to pay the bill the pharmacist said, “That'll be $34.95.”
Over the past 11 years I don't recall ever paying for a flu shot. The first nine years was because my old firm was awesome enough to bring a pharmacist in to our office and inject us all for free. And the last two years my insurance provider paid in full. But this pharmacist was adamant that Cigna, my insurance company, wouldn't pay for the particular strain I was about to get. Odd.
Normally I would have told the pharmacist to hold up so I could give my insurance company a call and ask them what's up. But this time, I just couldn't be bothered with this picayune amount. “OK, no problemo! Charge away.” I didn't want to have to spend 30 minutes on the phone for the chance of sending in my receipt to get reimbursed $35. Maybe if I was absolutely bored out of my mind with a lot of time to kill I'd go through the entire discovery process, but I just didn't have the patience.
Can't Be Bothered Until You Can
As you grow your wealth you begin to stop sweating the small stuff. The fake “freshly squeezed” orange juice at Noah's Bagel for $3.25 no longer bothers you. The 15 cents extra per gallon at a highly populated gas station is no big deal. The newly instated $5 an hour Sunday parking meters no longer piss you off. Your tennis partner never bringing a can of new balls isn't as annoying anymore. OK, that's a lie. I hate it when a tennis player never brings new balls and expects others to bear gifts.
About a month went by when a close friend told me she got a free flu shot at Walgreens paid for by Cigna, my same insurance provider. Now I was annoyed. Did I get lied to? The Cigna representative I spoke to on the phone said they absolutely do insure flu shots and Walgreens was dead wrong to charge me. Even though it was only $35, I went back to Walgreens to demand my money back. They still denied my request because they said I received a different vaccine that supposedly protects the same way, but isn't covered. WTF?!
Apparently Walgreens ran out of the most common vaccine covered by my insurance company, but had another vaccine that does the same job, but isn't covered. News to me. At no time did the pharmacist ever explain the situation. If he did, I'd have just come back the next day after they restocked, or walked over to another Walgreens six blocks away. All the pharmacist wanted was to get me vaccinated and move on to the next patient. The main purpose was done, but because Walgreen was to be paid either way, he didn't care about the insurance coverage process.
Saving Money Out Of Principle
Annoyed, I decided to write this post to encourage everyone to call your insurance company first to know your rights before going to a pharmacist. Make it a good habit to call your health insurance company at least once a year to review important things such as: co-pay, co-insurance, deductible, emergency care costs, and pharmacy costs. (See: Open Enrollment Insurance Checklist)
I called my credit card company to dispute the charge and they graciously credited my account $35. Then I faxed in my receipt with a form to Cigna to get them to reimburse me $35. If they are going to cover flu shots, then cover them all. It's been almost two months and I still haven't received a check in the mail.
Saving money is the one thing most of us can control. Good savings habits is the foundation of personal finance. Sometimes saving money is about principle. I hate feeling scammed or ripped off, no matter how little the cost. It's no wonder why the health insurance industry is so messed up and expensive in America.
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