Valley doctors concerned over cost of vaccines - Tucson News Now

Valley doctors concerned over cost of vaccines

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PHOENIX (CBS5) -

A new report shows vaccinations costs for the average child have increased twentyfold from $100 in 1986 to more than $2,000 today, and much of that cost is being put on the shoulders of doctors. 

"We found that seven out of 10 pediatric officers in the valley were losing money actually," said Dr. Amy Shoptaugh, a Tempe-based pediatrician who runs the practice All About Kids.

Shoptaugh says vaccine costs have increased and now make up to as much as 45 percent of a doctor office's overhead.

"It's difficult when you're looking at it being 45 percent of your overhead. If you're not making a profit on part of it, it's hard to continue keeping your doors open," said Shoptaugh.

Shoptaugh has worked with a group of Arizona doctors and pediatricians to communicate with insurance companies and vaccine manufacturers to open dialogue and ask for better compensation for doctors who offer vaccines.

"What we are looking for is to be able to break even. The average (cost of buying and administering a vaccine) is somewhere between 16 and 24 percent above the cost of buying the vaccine," she explains.

That extra 16 to 20 percent includes medical waste like needles, staff pay, shipping and even the paperwork required to administer the vaccination.

"Being a physician, you're at the mercy of the pharmaceutical company to buy (vaccines at their set price) and the insurance company that is going to (reimburse) you for it," explained Shoptaugh.

Debbie McCune Davis, the executive director of the Arizona Partnership for Immunization, helps facilitate conversation between the three big players in vaccines; the manufacturers, the doctors and the insurance companies.

"We have succeeded in getting the vaccine companies, when they have a new product coming to the market, be able to give some advanced notice. So a practice can plan for an expenditure," said McCune Davis. 

However, McCune Davis says many doctors are still left without full reimbursement for vaccines that are administered.

"Their interests are keeping costs low," said McCune Davis, referring to the insurance companies.

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