Wanting to do what was best for herself and the people she loved, Wilmington's Jacqueline Goodson went and got herself vaccinated against COVID-19 as soon as she could. Then she got a bill in the mail.
"I thought it was supposed to be free," she said to WDEL on Monday, May 24, 2021. "If I had known I was going to get charged I wouldn't have gotten the shot."
Rightfully so, Goodson was pretty upset about being charged $100.02 for getting her COVID vaccination, as Governor John Carney has mandated vaccinations be provided for free, to anyone who wanted them, in accordance with the guidelines set by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
"So to receive this bill right away, I thought it was Corporate America just trying to hustle minorities. Period," she said. "Because most people, especially once you get up in age, when you receive a bill, you automatically say 'I have to pay it because it's going to end up on my credit report.'"
Though she wasn't able to get in touch with anyone at Westside Family Healthcare, where she received her shot, by end of business Monday evening, WDEL made calls Monday and Tuesday, and reached Maggie Norris-Bent, Westside Family Director of External Affairs, who made clear this was a mistake that should not have occurred, and she was working to remedy it.
"We actually found out that this was a mistake on our end, and we're very sorry that Jacqueline received a bill," Norris-Bent said. "In no way should our patients be charged for a COVID vaccine. So it was it was simply a mistake that was made. And we are resolving it immediately."
When asked if Goodson's bill was the only bill mistakenly sent out, she said the organization was investigating to ensure no one received a bill they thought they needed to pay for having received a COVID-19 vaccination.
"We are actually looking into this today," Norris-Bent said. "We have our team looking in to see if this happens. Sometimes, working with different insurance companies, there's are some complexities, and sometimes bills get sent immediately, but what we ask our patients--and really, I think it's a message to everyone--that if you do get a bill for COVID vaccines, make sure you call the provider directly, to work through what may have happened. Because, especially with health care, there's different levels of payment complexity, and it's really important just to have that one-on-one conversation with the provider office."
Appreciative of having the situation resolved, Goodson--who said she'd been on hold for to hours prior to speaking with WDEL again Tuesday morning--said it was that thought of others receiving a bill and automatically paying it, at a time when so many financial difficulties may already be present in someone's life, that drove her to make sure people were aware this was a mistake.
"It feels great because we're living in a time where everybody's taking advantage. All prices have increased. Double, triple, everything across the board has gone up. You can't tell people that you can get vaccinated for free, and then two months later, here comes the bill," Goodson said. "I think it's important. I don't care if it's $10, or $20, $100, It's important that we don't have any extra bills, especially this season."
Thankfully, Norris-Bent said Westside recognizes the importance of people getting this vaccine and will do anything to make sure everyone has fair and equitable access to the resources made available to them free through the federal government.
"Westside remains here for our patients and our neighbors, really helping folks understand what the bills might be, and helping to resolve and really provide care regardless of insurance status or ability to pay," she said. "We remain here for our community and that's what we do. So I'm glad that she she spoke up and hopefully this can be just be a teachable moment for everyone."
Division of Public Health Director Dr. Karyl Rattay said Tuesday during a weekly press conference regarding the state of the pandemic in Delaware she wasn't aware of anyone being billed, but that sometimes wires get crossed in the course of billing.
"It is...appropriate for people with insurance to have their insurance company be billed for the administration costs," she said.
Norris-Bent said those who discover similar issues relating to mistaken bills sent out citing the COVID-19 vaccination should contact their billing partner at 877.236.1592 and the Westside Family office where they received care. Anyone facing difficulties contacting the appropriate level of management or who have received a bill for a COVID-19 vaccination can also contact WDEL's DJ McAneny at firstname.lastname@example.org.