By David Bruskin
This is a particularly good year to get a flu shot.
The COVID-19 pandemic has created a public health crisis that is proving difficult to control. But the flu, thankfully, is a different story. With few exceptions, the CDC recommends flu shots for everyone starting at the age of six months. No flu vaccine is 100% effective, but getting the shot early in the season can mean a much milder flu if you do catch it.
So where do you get a flu shot, and how much will it cost? Editors Guild members have insurance under The Motion Picture Industry Health Plan (MPIHP), which has a dizzying amount of price-affecting variables, including where the member lives, what type of plan they have, and more.
Flu shots are free if you have Medicare. If you’re insured under MPIHP, cost might depend on the pharmacy or clinic you choose.
IF YOU’RE ELIGIBLE FOR MPIHP BENEFITS:
Under MPIHP, the least expensive option is the regular $5 co-pay for all appointments, no out-of-pocket costs. This is available to West Coast members enrolled in Anthem Blue Cross PPO, from physicians at one of the five UCLA-MPTF Health Centers and in The Industry Health Network (TIHN).
If you live in Los Angeles and are enrolled in MPIHP’s Anthem Blue Cross PPO option but choose not to use the Health Centers or physicians in TIHN, you can go to an Anthem Blue Cross PPO In-Network provider. But by not using the Health Centers, you will pay more – and you will pay a lot more if you go Out-of-Network: co-payment PLUS co-insurance PLUS possibly the unpaid balance of what insurance doesn’t cover. Call MPIHP Benefits and they’ll help you figure it out.
At HMOs like Kaiser Permanente and Health Net, or Oxford (which is actually a POS plan), flu shots are no cost to members when provided In-Network. Out-of-Network coverage, if there is any, will incur out-of-pocket expenses like copays, coinsurance, and deductibles.
MPIHP’s Express Scripts prescription drug plan covers flu shots for a $25 co-pay. Before you go to a pharmacy for a flu shot, it’s best to confirm if you need an appointment and if your insurance will be honored. Walgreens, Duane Reade, and Happy Harry’s retail stores are In-Network pharmacies for Express Scripts.
Kaiser, Health Net, and Oxford all cover flu shots through Express Scripts for a co-pay, but none of these three offers Out-of-Network coverage, which means you’ll pay full cost out of pocket at an Out-of-Network pharmacy.
IF YOU ARE NOT ELIGIBLE FOR MPIHP BENEFITS
If you’re insured in California under Medi-Cal, flu shots are covered at no cost.
In partnership with the L.A. County Public Health Department, each of eight L.A. County libraries will host a free flu shot clinic from (as of this writing) mid-October through mid-November. Visit https://lacountylibrary.org/free-flu-shots/ for more information. During that same period, the Health Department will hold 18 Outreach Clinics in cities in and around L.A. County (http://publichealth.lacounty.gov/chs/phcenters.htm). Call 2-1-1 for information about the current clinic schedule and vaccine availability.
For New Yorkers with no insurance, free and low-cost vaccines are available, including at NYC Health + Hospitals, the city’s public health care system that offers 70 locations across the five boroughs.
On both coasts, flu shots can be had at chain pharmacies and warehouse clubs for a range of out-of-pocket prices.
A recent blog entry on cheapism.com compares flu-shot costs at the start of the 2020-2021 flu season among several major pharmacy chains. (Extra-strength doses for seniors cost a bit more.) The most expensive flu shot on their list is $70 from Kroger supermarket pharmacies. In descending order, after Safeway at about $49, the next five stores – Walgreens, Rite Aid, CVS/Target, Walmart, and Sam’s Club – are all between $38 and $41. At the bottom of the pharmacy list is Costco, coming in at just $20 out of pocket. Membership is not required.
On VaccineFinder.org, you can locate immunization providers throughout the United States — not just standard flu shots for ages 18 and older, but also other options: for kids and seniors, even nasal spray or an egg-free form.
It’s easy and affordable to prevent the flu — and in this year, it’s best not to take any chances with one’s health.
David Bruskin is a retired Story Aanalyst and writer and proofreader for CineMontage.