I recently learned a valuable lesson about health insurance through the process of getting my annual flu shot. For years and years, my flu shot was covered by my individual health insurance plan, and I could leave the clinic without spending a dime.

This year it was very different. To save time, I decided to use the services of my local pharmacy.    When speaking to the clerk, I was told that my new health insurance did not cover flu shot vaccinations. I was in a hurry and just wanted to get it over with so I didn’t take the time to investigate why it wasn’t covered and just paid the $30 bucks.  After a small prick in my upper left arm, the annual rite was over.

Or so I thought.

A couple of days later, I stumbled across news coverage about certain clinics incorrectly telling customers their health insurance didn’t cover flu shots. Today, I called my health insurance company to find out if my flu shot should have been covered and learned that I was given incomplete information by the drug store.

The truth is that my health insurance does provide coverage for flu shots – just not at that particular drug store.  The drug store conveniently forgot to mention that detail.

Based on this experience, here are my three tips for avoiding a $30 charge for a flu shot this year:

1. Call your insurance company in advance to find out if flu shots are covered.  You can find the number on your insurance card.

2. When speaking with your insurance company, learn which providers have partnered with them and if they are covered at 100%.

3. Make sure the provider or clinic runs your insurance card through their system as a “pharmacy benefit” and as a “medical benefit”. This is important because sometimes the flu shot coverage is listed under just one of these two benefit categories, and if you don’t have it checked under both, you might be told you don’t have coverage!

Now that you know how to check to see if your flu shot is covered, the next step is to get vaccinated before the flu season is in full force! Don’t wait until you have the symptoms—one quick flu vaccine now can keep you protected all winter long. In fact, one health expert said that mid December is “an ideal time to get vaccinated since influenza activity often peaks in January.”

To find locations near you that can give you a flu shot, go to the HealthMap Vaccine Finder website.  Just enter your zip code, and you’ll find the options nearby you.

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