Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Dakota and the North Dakota Department of health announced in a joint news conference October 11 that beginning January 1, 2008, health insurance companies will be billed for vaccines given to children covered by their policies.
In the past, the federal government provided vaccines for all North Dakota children younger than 18. However, because the number of recommended vaccinations has increased and the federal vaccine allotment has not, the Department of Health will no longer be able to supply vaccines for children who have health insurance. Instead, the patients' insurance companies will be billed for the cost of the vaccine.
Beginning January 1, some patients will begin to see, for the first time, deductibles, copayments and/or coinsurance for vaccinations on the explanation of benefits reports from their insurance companies. Cost-sharing amounts will vary depending on the insurance plan.
Children who are Native American, eligible for Medicaid, uninsured or underinsured (have health insurance that does not cover vaccinations) will continue to receive free vaccine through the federal Vaccines For Children program.
"Immunizations have been part of the BCBSND benefit plans for years," said Dr. Jon Rice, senior vice president and chief medical officer at BCBSND. "In light of the change, BCBSND will now cover all Centers for Disease Control and Prevention-recommended vaccines for children and adults," he added, but copayments and deductible amounts vary by plan.
"Every child is precious and deserves to grow up healthy and strong," said State Health Officer Dr. Terry Dwelle. "Making sure our children are vaccinated is one of the most important ways of protecting their health. I encourage parents to check their insurance policies to see which vaccines are covered by their plans. If you think your child may be eligible for the Vaccines For Children program, talk to your local public health unit or private provider."
The Department of Health has been working with private providers, local public health units and Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Dakota to develop information for parents to help them prepare for the upcoming changes. "PROtect ND Kids" information has been sent to schools, clinics, hospitals, local public health units and businesses across the state. To access the PROtect ND Kids fact sheets and other articles, visit www.ndhealth.gov, www.BCBSND.com or hospital, clinic or local public health unit web sites.