Free Flu Shots Demonstrate How Medical Greed at Heart of Healthcare’s High Cost

Doctor’s offices as well as many pharmacies and even employer medical services have been offering free flu shots. My employer has a medical center on location and they offered free flu shots over a month ago. Since was unable to make it at the times they were there, I ended up getting my free flu shot at the Little Clinic at my local Kroger store. My wife just got her free flu shot from her doctor’s office.

Have you ever asked yourself how all of these institutions can afford to give free flu shots? Someone has to pay for them, don’t they? You can bet that the drug companies that make the flu vaccine aren’t providing them for free.

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In the Byzantine world of health care pricing, most people wouldn’t expect that the ubiquitous flu shot could be a prime example of how the system’s lack of transparency can lead to disparate costs. The Affordable Care Act requires health insurers to cover all federally recommended vaccines at no charge to patients, including flu immunizations. Although people with insurance pay nothing when they get their shot, many don’t realize that their insurers foot the bill — and that those companies will recoup their costs eventually.

In just one small sample from one insurer, Kaiser Health News found dramatic differences among the costs for its own employees. At a Sacramento, Calif., facility, the insurer paid $85, but just a little more than half that at a clinic in Long Beach. A drugstore in Washington, D.C., was paid $32.

The wide discrepancy in what insurers pay for the same flu shot illustrates what’s wrong with America’s health system, said Glenn Melnick, a health economist at the University of Southern California.

My family has also seen this greed that permeates many in the medical community when my oldest daughter sustained an on the job injury. After being attacked by a deranged patient in the hospital where she worked, she ended up with severe muscle spasms in her neck and shoulder. One of the doctors she went to was a pain specialist. For a number of months, our daughter saw this doctor several times a week. He would inject cortisone into the seemingly permanently spasmed muscle. He would insert the needle, inject some cortisone, reposition the needle and then inject more until he emptied a rather large syringe.

One day, our daughter accidentally received a copy of the bill that the doctor was charging workman’s comp. He was billing them $1660 for EACH visit. He charged $166 for every cc of cortisone he injected and each visit was 10 injections. We know that cortisone doesn’t cost anything close the that much and yet he was bilking the system for every greedy dollar he could. I’ve since asked several medical professionals about the cost of cortisone injects they all say it is very cheap and that 10 cc’s would not come to $166 at the time, let alone $1660.

I was also told by one medical professional that these greedy doctors charge these outrageously exorbitant prices in order to help afford their fancy cars, homes and lavish lifestyles and because they can and usually get away with it.


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