Flu

Melissa Locke of the Pittsburg County Health Department on Friday looks over some of the influenza vaccine supply which has arrived at the public health facility. The health department plans to start giving flu shots on Monday, but this year, a $25 charge will be assessed to many of those who get the vaccination.

The Pittsburg County Health Department is making a point of reminding county residents that they’ll be charged $25 for flu shots this year — that is, the charge will be assessed to most county residents who get the vaccination.

An exception is in place for Oklahoma state employees and teachers on a particular insurance program.

They should be able to get their influenza vaccinations without any out-of-pocket expense.

Also, those who fall into certain income levels will be eligible for flu shots at no charge.

All others can refer to the aforementioned song by the Louvin Brothers — they should have their $25 ready when they get their vaccination.

This year’s influenza vaccination campaign by the Pittsburg County Health Department starts when the health department opens its doors at 8 a.m. on Monday. No special campaigns, such as drive-through vaccinations are planned.

Those wanting to get a flu shot should simply show up at the health department at 1400 E. College Ave., which is across the street from the McAlester Regional Health Center. Regular office hours are from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.

This year, the vaccination for the regular flu and the H1N1 virus have been combined into one vaccination, said Pittsburg County Health Department Administrator Michael Echelle. The H1N1 virus became commonly known as the “swine flu” last year.

In addition to cash, those getting the vaccine can also pay by check or credit card, said Echelle, who addressed the issue of the $25 cost.

“Due to budget constraints, the health department will assess a $25 fee,” with the exception of those covered by the HealthChoice insurance program, Echelle said. The insurance covers many state workers and teachers, he said.

“They won’t have an out-of-pocket expense,” Echelle said of individuals covered by HealthChoice. Instead, the  health department will bill the insurance company, he said.

A few other exceptions are in place as well.

“No fee will be assessed for persons on Medicare who do not belong to an HMO,” Echelle said.

Those covered by SoonerCare also will not be charged the fee, he said.

Those covered by HealthChoice, Medicare or SoonerCare will be asked to show their insurance card, Echelle said.

Asked if those on other insurance programs can have the shots paid through their insurance, Echelle said the individuals  will be charged the $25 fee.

“We will give them a receipt, but the receipt we give them will probably not be enough to  get them reimbursed,” he said.

He referred any follow-up questions on that subject to Oklahoma State Department of Health spokesperson Wesley Bennett-Webb.

As to why other insurance programs won’t be included for coverage, she said. “We were looking for ways to try and cover public health employees who would be out giving shots and working with the public.”

“We looked at those insurance companies that provide insurance coverage to public health employees, then expanded it a bit to other state employees.”

Regarding why other insurance programs aren’t being accepted, Bennett-Webb said, “We don’t have the mechanism in place this year to bill private insurance.”

One more exception is in place for families or individuals whose income is at a certain level.

“Clients who are at or below these amounts may receive a waiver,” according to the health department.

Contact James Beaty at jbeaty@mcalesternews.com.

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