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Why Travel Clinics don't Accept Insurance

Updated: Jul 24, 2023

At the last minute you find out you need a yellow fever vaccine for your trip to Africa. Where can you get a yellow fever shot? You probably called your primary care doctor and local pharmacy to find out they don’t carry it.

The yellow fever vaccine is only available at certified yellow fever clinics, so usually special travel clinics are the only ones to offer it. When you make an appointment, you might find out they only take cash.

“Do you take insurance?”

Travel vaccine reimbursement from insurance is close to $0. Very few health insurance plans offer reimbursement for these vaccines because ‘travel is optional.’ The few plans that do offer reimbursement are usually a very small fraction of the actual cost of the vaccine.

If travel clinics were to pursue contracts with every insurance company, code and bill every travel vaccine claim, submit them for reimbursement, and invoice customers for anything insurance does not cover, the cost of the travel vaccines would increase astronomically. The time and labor involved is simply not effective.

However, there is a way to skip a few steps and try to get reimbursed by your insurance yourself. If you request a superbill from the travel clinic, they can provide you with all the insurance codes needed to send your bill to your insurance provider. If your insurance does cover any portion of the vaccines, they will send you a check in the mail. If they do not cover travel clinic services, they will send you a rejected claim letter.

At our travel clinic, very few people we have heard have gotten any kind of reimbursement. One patient traveling to Southeast Asia was able to get approximately $20 reimbursed for a typhoid vaccine. If you’d like to see how much the typhoid vaccine cost, our pricing page is here.

Due to the lack of reimbursement by insurance for travel clinic services, it would be quite difficult to find a travel clinic that does run insurance. This would be more common if a primary care physician decided to add travel medicine to their list of services. Due to the limited population of international travelers, this service would not make sense for most primary care providers.

If you have HSA funds, those can be used for travel vaccinations. A Health Savings Account is usually offered through your employer if you have a high deductible health insurance plan. This money is not taxed and can be used on a number of health-related services. If you use your HSA debit card, or reimburse yourself with HSA funds, be sure to keep the receipt for your records.

Travel clinics are here to provide services for all international travelers. They specialize in travel and know more about which vaccines and medications you want than your primary care provider does. Pre-travel health consultations come at a price, but it is less than emergency evacuation out of a foreign country and more enjoyable than being stuck in the bathroom for the majority of your trip. To make an appointment at a travel medicine clinic, see our Chandler and Scottsdale locations.


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