AARP today announced a new 800 number to help members and other consumers fight back against price gouging for flu shots. The toll-free number, 1-877-FLU-COST (877-358-2678), will be ‘live’ beginning Friday, October 29, 7:00 am EST. The hours of operation will be 7:00 am to midnight EST, Monday through Friday.
AARP Board Member Byron Thames, M.D., said, "This year's flu shot supply has created an environment where access may be controlled through personal favor, and more often, through exorbitant pricing. There has already been evidence of price gouging which is a concern to AARP members and puts their health at risk."
To help stop price gougers in their tracks, the line will provide a way to report any pricing irregularities that people are aware of, either through personal experience or through friends or neighbors.
Reports to 1-877-FLU-COST will be examined to see if prices charged to consumers rise to the level of price gouging. Pricing experts agree that anything over $30, excluding doctors visit fees, could be an overcharge. Reports to the toll-free line will be turned over to the proper authorities at HHS and to the Attorney General in the state where the charge was incurred.
Dr. Thames explains, "The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has called on providers not to attempt to use opportunistic pricing in order to enhance their profits. Even so, most experts believe it will happen anyway."
AARP is also urging people to ask their medical providers about a pneumococcal vaccine. "Pneumonia shots are in full supply and can really save lives," Dr. Thames said. Those who call and need help finding a vaccination will be directed to their state and territorial health authority for additional information.
This effort is part of AARP's Watchdog campaign to help bring down the cost of prescription drugs. Dr. Thames said, "Being a ‘watchdog’ on drug pricing issues means blowing the whistle on unscrupulous individuals who are price gouging. This is one way AARP is helping keep drug prices affordable for our members. We also are helping get vaccinations to those who need them the most. Keeping people flu free this winter not only protects their health, but protects them against added health care costs."
To increase the flu vaccination supply, AARP is supporting the Flu Protection Act (S. 2038/H.R. 3758) introduced in Congress. This Act would allow the Center for Disease Control (CDC) to contract with vaccine manufacturers to request and purchase additional doses of the influenza vaccine as necessary. It would also allow the CDC to compensate vaccine manufacturers for any doses that were requested by the CDD, but not sold.
AARP is a nonprofit, nonpartisan membership organization dedicated to making life better for people 50 and over. We provide information and resources; engage in legislative, regulatory and legal advocacy; assist members in serving their communities; and offer a wide range of unique benefits, special products, and services for our members. These include AARP The Magazine, published bimonthly; AARP Bulletin, our monthly newspaper; AARP Segunda Juventud, our quarterly publication for Hispanic members; NRTA Live and Learn for National Retired Teachers Association members; and our Web site, www.aarp.org. We have staffed offices in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.