Attorney General James Secures Reimbursements for Consumers Charged for COVID-19 Vaccine Administration Fees
Embassy Pharmacy and Fulton Drugs Were Found to Have Improperly Charged
Hundreds of COVID-19 Vaccine Recipients a Fee when Administering the Vaccine
NEW YORK – New York Attorney General Letitia James today announced that her office secured refunds for New Yorkers who were wrongfully charged administration fees from two pharmacies when they received their COVID-19 vaccine. The Office of the Attorney General (OAG) found that Embassy Pharmacy, in Manhattan improperly charged a vaccine administration fee of $25 to approximately 275 consumers that received a COVID-19 vaccination. Similarly, Fulton Drugs, in Brooklyn, charged a vaccine administration fee of $20 or $25 to approximately 175 consumers. In accordance with the agreements, the pharmacies have reimbursed all improperly charged vaccine recipients and will implement stronger training programs for staff.
“Make no mistake: COVID vaccines are free to all who seek them,” said Attorney General James. “New Yorkers should not be charged fees to receive the vaccines. If they are, my office will work to ensure they are reimbursed for the charges.”
The OAG first launched its investigation in March of 2021, following reports from New Yorkers who were charged for vaccines. While vaccination providers are allowed to seek appropriate reimbursement from a vaccine recipient’s health plan or for those who are uninsured, from the Health Resources and Services Administration’s COVID-19 Uninsured Program, providers are not allowed to charge a vaccine recipient. By imposing a vaccine administration fee directly to consumers, Embassy and Fulton engaged in deceptive acts and practices that violated Executive Law § 63(12) and General Business Law § 349.
The agreements reached by Attorney General James ensure that all who paid the vaccine administration fee have been reimbursed and the pharmacies have immediately changed their practices to eliminate the vaccine administration fee to consumers. Additionally, the pharmacies have agreed to institute new requirements that strengthen training for all staff involved with the administration of COVID-19 vaccines, as well as signage requirements associated with vaccine administration.
If New Yorkers are aware of providers improperly charging consumers a fee for administration of the COVID-19 vaccine, they should contact the Office of the Attorney General’s Health Care Bureau online or call 1-800-428-9071.
“New York City’s free vaccination program is a vital part of our city’s response to the pandemic. We must eliminate every barrier to getting vaccinated against COVID-19, including misinformation that recipients will be charged for getting the vaccine,” said Manhattan Borough President Mark Levine. “If you were wrongfully charged for a shot you are entitled to reimbursement. I applaud Attorney General James for investigating these wrongful charges and ensuring that New Yorkers who were responsible by getting vaccinated are fully and rightfully reimbursed.”
“During these difficult times, we must continue encouraging people to get vaccinated to keep themselves and their communities safe,” said State Assemblymember Al Taylor. “Falsely charging fees for a free, essential vaccine will only drive people away. I applaud Attorney General James for swiftly reaching an agreement with the pharmacies in question and for looking out for the people of New York.”
“Today's announcement by Attorney General Letitia James illustrates New York state's commitment to consumer protection,” said State Assemblymember Stefani L. Zinerman. “I applaud her quick response to recover the wrongfully charged administrative fees for the COVID-19 test kits sold by Embassy and Fulton pharmacies. The self-advocacy of the residents from the 56th Assembly District who reported these deceptive acts coupled with a responsive government agency is how we effectively prevent future fraud in our community.”
“New Yorkers put a tremendous amount of trust in their local pharmacies to serve them with honesty and compassion. That's why it is so disturbing and damaging when these same businesses exploit our must vulnerable during a pandemic,” said Council Member Shaun Abreu. “Thanks to Attorney General James, 275 of my constituents are getting restitution from Embassy Pharmacy. As a member of the Council's Consumer and Worker Protection Committee, I look forward to fighting fraud side by side with her.”
“Cost barriers for vaccination are incredibly dangerous, even when applied by mistake,” said Council Member Chi Ossé. “It is encouraging to see the Attorney General's Office securing these reimbursements, as well as to know that stronger training and other measures will prevent this mistake from being repeated in the future.”
This matter was handled by Special Counsel Sara Haviva Mark and Deputy Bureau Chief Leslieann Cachola of the Health Care Bureau, under the supervision of Bureau Chief Darsana Srinivasan. The Health Care Bureau is a part of the Division for Social Justice, led by Chief Deputy Attorney General Meghan Faux and overseen by First Deputy Attorney General Jennifer Levy.