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#PriceCheck: How to avoid paying for your flu shot

WFIU Public Radio via Flickr Creative Commons

Want to protect yourself and loved ones against the flu?

The best thing you can do is get your annual flu shot, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says. The Affordable Care Act tries to make it easy for people to follow that advice: Under the federal health law, the seasonal flu shot is considered preventive care, so it's covered at no extra cost to you.

But as with most things in health care, the devil's in the details.

When is your flu shot free?

Generally, if you have an HMO plan, you'll need to visit a doctor or facility in your insurance network to get your free shot.

Kaiser Permanente members, for example, can get the vaccine at no extra cost at Kaiser facilities.

"We believe this is important to enable us to maintain records of when our members received this preventive care, especially for our must vulnerable populations - small children, the aged, and those with respiratory issues," Kaiser spokeswoman Amy Thoma says in an e-mail.

Typically, if you have a PPO health plan, you also have the option of getting your flu shot at pharmacies and retail stores, such as Costco and Target.

Here's where things can get sticky: If you go this route, you must make sure that the pharmacy you visit is in your insurance network. (You can do this by calling a pharmacy and asking if it takes your insurance, or calling your insurance company and asking which pharmacies you could visit.)

If you go to an out-of-network pharmacy, you'll end up paying out of pocket for your shot. And as our #PriceCheck database shows, prices for seasonal flu shots vary: In the Los Angeles area, the costs range from $14.99 at Costco to $31.99 at CVS.

Different types of flu shots

And that's just for your typical seasonal flu shot, which protects against three flu strains. This so-called trivalent shot is also available in a high-dose version, which has been approved for people ages 65 and up.

There's also a quadrivalent shot, which protects against four strains. The four-strain vaccine can be administered as a typical shot or as a nasal spray for healthy people ages 2-40.

The quadrivalent shot is more expensive, so it's even more important to make sure you're getting it from an in-network facility. The price for the quadrivalent shot is $36.99 at CVS, and $54.99 at MinuteClinics. 

How much was your flu shot?

Did you get your flu shot yet?

Head over to #PriceCheck, where you can search for flu shot costs near you. Once you get your shot, please add your costs to our ever-growing database of costs. We’re interested in costs for the trivalent and quadrivalent shots.

Thanks for helping us bring some clarity to the crazy world of health costs!