Stories

Flu shots exemplify the health care system's pricing dysfunction

A nurse fills a syringe with the flu vaccine.
A nurse fills a syringe with the flu vaccine in 2018. Photo: Jeff Gritchen/Digital First Media/Orange County Register via Getty Images

Insured patients don't directly pay anything for flu shots, but they can be expensive — and these costs vary widely, California Healthline reports with Kaiser Health News.

Why it matters: It's well-documented that the prices of health care services vary widely by location, but the price discrepancy among flu shots — which are cheap — drives home how inconsistent and arbitrary the system can be.

  • Even if patients aren't paying these prices out of pocket, we all pay for inflated costs via higher premiums.

Case in point: KHN found that what its insurer paid for KHN employees' flu shots varied dramatically; the insurer paid $85 to one facility in Sacramento and $32 at a drugstore in Washington, D.C.

  • In D.C., Medicaid pays $15 for a flu shot.

Go deeper: