Flu season is upon us, which means you have two good reasons to visit your doctor or other vaccination provider to get your annual flu shot. One, it just might protect you from a miserable and potentially fatal case of the flu. Two, if you have a Flexible Spending Account (FSA) or Health Savings Account (HSA), your flu shot counts as a qualified medical expense. That means you can save money on the vaccine by using your account funds to pay for it.
If you think you don’t need a flu shot, consider this: the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates nearly 80,000 Americans died of flu (or complications from it) in the winter of 2017. CDC also estimated more than 48 million people get sick with the flu, with 959,000 ending up in the hospital because of it.
Learn more about who should get a flu shot, the cost and availability of the vaccine, and how your FSA or HSA can help.
Who Should Get a Flu Vaccination?
Despite the multitude of recommendations from health professionals, many people refuse to get a flu shot. Some people have concerns about the safety of the vaccines, while others claim, “I never get the flu.” There are even some people that say that the shot does not work. Cost can also be a factor in getting the shot.
First, the vaccines have been proven safe. Also, just because someone hasn’t gotten the flu doesn’t mean they will never get it, especially if a new strain develops.
The CDC Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices recommends that every person six months of age and older should get a flu vaccine every season. The following people are considered high risk for developing flu-related complications:
- Children younger than five, especially those younger than two years old
- Adults 65 years of age and older
- Pregnant women
- Residents of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities
- Native American Indians and Alaskan natives
People with the following medical conditions also have a high risk of contracting the flu:
- Neurological and neurodevelopmental conditions
- Chronic lung disease
- Heart disease
- Blood disorders
- Kidney disorders
- Liver disorders
- Metabolic disorders
- Weakened immune systems due to disease or medication
- People younger than 19 years old who are receiving long-term aspirin therapy
- People with extreme obesity
Even if you’re not on these lists, the protection afforded by the vaccines outweighs the minor inconvenience and mild discomfort of getting a flu shot.
Flu Shot Cost and Availability
The cost for the shot to prevent this serious illness varies from location to location. Depending on where you get the vaccine, it can be a significant amount. If you have insurance, many retail clinics and pharmacies offer free or low-cost flu shots.
In 2019, flu shots start at around $20 at Costco. In places like Walgreens, CVS, Walmart and other large retailers, the price can go up to $50 if you don’t have healthcare insurance. The higher-dose version of the vaccine recommended for seniors can cost as much as $70.
Most healthcare plans cover at least part of the price of the vaccination, which reduces the cost passed on to the individual. If you have to cover part of the cost, your FSA or HSA lets you do it with pre-tax funds instead of paying out-of-pocket. With an account-linked benefits debit card, you can pay for it directly from your account, so you don’t have to file a claim and wait for reimbursement.
If you can’t afford the costs of a flu shot, don’t despair; there are other ways you can still get the immunization. Many employers offer free vaccines to their employees and families. Many schools offer free flu shots to all students, so you can get your children immunized. Local health departments and healthcare providers will often set up free flu shot clinics, especially in low-income areas.
When to Get Your Flu Shot
Any time before the flu season, which can begin as early as October and last through May, is a good time. However, it takes about two weeks for a person’s immune system to respond to the vaccine and start protecting against the virus(es). Also, the CDC reports that flu activity most commonly peaks in the U.S. between December and March. Getting your flu shot no later than mid-November offers the most protection for this flu season.
More Good Reasons to Get a Flu Shot
Aside from the sickness and loss of life, the flu takes a severe economic toll on the U.S. According to the CDC, the influenza costs the U.S. around $10.4 billion every year for hospitalizations and adult outpatient visits to their doctors. Sick employees cost employers millions in lost productivity. Employees who don’t receive paid sick leave lose millions in wages.
For your own sake, and to avoid passing the virus on to those you live or work with, consider getting your flu shot this season. It can cost little to nothing to get your entire family vaccinated and keep them healthy. With your FSA or HSA, you’re putting your benefit dollars to work. Click here to find a vaccine provider.
DataPath, Inc. creates cloud-based solutions for FSA and HSA administration, with benefits debit cards.