New York Attorney General Letitia James’ office has secured full refunds for hundreds of New Yorkers who were wrongfully billed for COVID-19 vaccines by Northwell Health-GoHealth Urgent Care (Northwell-GoHealth) clinics. The Office of the Attorney General (OAG) found that Northwell-GoHealth wrongly charged up to 731 patients for COVID-19 vaccines, resulting in patients paying a total of $14,996.05 in improper fees. Northwell-GoHealth also sent 72 unpaid bills for COVID-19 vaccines to collections. As a result of the agreement announced on February 12, Northwell-GoHealth has reimbursed all New Yorkers who were wrongly charged, will strengthen employee compliance with applicable laws for COVID-19 vaccine billing, and will pay a $25,000 penalty.
“During the pandemic state of emergency, COVID-19 vaccines were free to all who wanted them,” said James. “Clinics should be careful in ensuring that New Yorkers were not improperly charged fees for these vaccines and should take steps to refund any payments wrongfully charged and received. I encourage anyone who believes they may have been billed for a COVID-19 vaccine that was supposed to be free to reach out to my office.”
The OAG launched an investigation into Northwell-GoHealth, which operates 57 urgent care clinics in the state, following complaints from New Yorkers who received and paid bills for COVID-19 vaccines. Under the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) Provider Agreement regarding COVID-19 vaccine distribution, which was in effect until September 12, 2023, providers such as Northwell-GoHealth were required to administer COVID-19 vaccines at no out-of-pocket cost to the patient.
Due to administrative errors, Northwell-GoHealth instead charged as many as 731 New Yorkers who received COVID-19 vaccines at their clinics approximately $28 per vaccine dose. As a result, 451 patients or their guarantors made out-of-pocket payments to satisfy charges they should not have received, and unpaid accounts associated with 72 vaccine doses were sent to collections for reimbursement.
Under the agreement announced today, Northwell-GoHealth has refunded a total of $14,996.05 to all patients or guarantors who were improperly charged for vaccine administration and will notify all impacted consumers either of the refund or of the wrongful charge. In addition, the clinics have agreed to strengthen their billing practices to ensure that future COVID-19 vaccine appointments at Northwell-GoHealth clinics do not result in improper charges to patients.
If New Yorkers are aware of providers improperly charging consumers a fee for administration of the COVID-19 vaccine, they should submit a complaint to OAG’s Health Care Bureau or call 1-800-428-9071.