Walgreens to reimburse 1,600 for flu shots

"There's no question that the flu has arrived

"There's no question that the flu has arrived earlier this year, in greater numbers," says one county health commissioner. (Jan. 10, 2013) (Credit: Angela Gaul)

Walgreens has agreed to reimburse more than 1,600 customers who were billed and paid for the flu shot that they were led to believe would be provided free.

The 1,647 customers, all of whom are members of New York's Empire health plan, will be reimbursed $30, the price of the flu shot, said officials at the state attorney general's office, which reached the agreement with the retailer on Friday.

"By refunding customers, this settlement will ensure that Walgreens will not contribute to any consumer confusion that could negatively impact public vaccination efforts," Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said in a statement. "While our office supports the increased availability of vaccinations through retail pharmacies, stores like Walgreens must be prepared to let consumers know whether their flu shots are covered by an insurance plan when administered at their stores."


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Walgreens officials could not be reached for comment.

The settlement comes after about 3,000 Empire Plan members who received shots during flu season in 2010 and 2011 were billed even though, officials said, they were led by Walgreens to believe that the service was covered. Under the Empire Plan, the shots are not covered when given by a pharmacy.

Schneiderman's office began investigating after several members complained.

Walgreens, which agreed to pay $15,000 to the state, also agreed to stop billing Empire Plan members who have been vaccinated since Aug. 15, 2010; to make certain that Walgreens employees disseminate accurate information about the coverage to plan members; and to report to Schneiderman's office the results of the reimbursement effort.

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