Docs: vax programs are too costly

Are vaccinations bad for business? That's what some doctors are concerned about. According to two studies published in the December issue of Pediatrics, what doctors pay for vaccines and what they are reimbursed varies widely, and immunization costs are causing some physicians to consider dropping the service. One survey of 1,280 doctors--to which 800 responded--showed that one in 10 U.S. doctors who vaccinate privately insured children are considering dropping the service because it's costing them more money than it's worth. Nearly half said they had delayed purchasing a vaccine because of its costs and experienced a decrease in profit margins because of their vax programs.

Family practioners were the least likely to have considered dropping immunizations, as their businesses don't rely as heavily on profit from vaccinations. Of the family docs who responded, 21 percent said they had seriously considered dropping immunizations, while only 11 percent of physicians and five percent of pediatricians felt the same way. "For us to give up vaccines would hurt our core business because that's why kids come in," Dr. Herschel Lessin, a pediatrician in Hopewell Junction, New York tells the Associated Press. Lessin says his practice's spending on vaccines more than doubled from 2006 to 2007.

A second survey asked doctors what they paid for vaccines and how they were reimbursed from private insurers. Responses from 76 physicians in five states (20 percent of those asked to participate) revealed significant disparities between charges and reimbursements. Maximum and minimum reimbursements for a single vaccine differed from $8 to more than $80.

The studies were conducted by the University of Michigan Health system, with funding from the CDC.

- check out the study release
- read the AP story for more
- see the Washing Post article