The CDC recommends that all children and some adults get a hepatitis A vaccine. If you're planning on getting the vaccine, here's what you need to know.
Amino found that the median network rate for a hepatitis A vaccine is $179. However, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) requires insurance companies to cover the full cost of the vaccine with no cost-sharing, so you should pay $0 out-of-pocket.
Read on to learn more about what hepatitis A is and who needs to be vaccinated.
What is hepatitis A?
Hepatitis A is an infectious liver disease caused by the hepatitis A virus. The hepatitis A virus is present in the fecal matter and blood of infected people, and it is most often spread through contaminated food and water. However, hepatitis A can also be spread through sexual activity and sharing needles.
Despite being highly contagious, hepatitis A is rarely serious and usually goes away on its own. Symptoms of hepatitis A can show up anywhere from 15 to 50 days after you contract the virus and are usually mild.
Symptoms of hepatitis A could include:
- Yellowing of the eyes and skin (jaundice)
- Dark urine
- Stomach pains
- Loss of appetite or unexplained weight loss
Some people who contract the hepatitis A virus do not experience any symptoms. Children are especially unlikely to show signs of being infected. There is no treatment for hepatitis A, but symptoms can be managed with rest, a healthy diet, and plenty of water.
What is the hepatitis A vaccine?
The hepatitis A vaccine protects you against hepatitis A by helping your body build immunity against the virus. The vaccine is administered in two shots, given six months apart. In some cases, hepatitis A and B vaccines can be combined and given in 3 shots, spread out over 12 months.
If you’re traveling to a country where hepatitis A is common, make sure to get the vaccine at least two weeks before your trip. Serious reactions to the vaccine are very rare, but you could experience a low-grade fever, fatigue, or headache after getting the shots.
Are there alternatives to the hepatitis A vaccine?
There are no alternatives to the hepatitis A vaccine, but the CDC recommends taking these precautions while traveling in countries where hepatitis A is common:
- Drink only sealed, bottled water
- Avoid street food and food served at room temperature
- Eat only fruits and vegetables that have been washed or peeled
- Wash your hands often, and avoid touching your face
Who should get the hepatitis A vaccine?
The hepatitis A vaccine greatly decreases the likelihood that you’ll contract hepatitis A, so all children are routinely vaccinated between 1-2 years old.
The CDC recommends you get the vaccine as an adult if you:
- Plan on traveling to countries where hepatitis A is common
- Are a man who has sex with other men
- Share needles or other drug injection equipment
- Have chronic liver disease, including hepatitis B and hepatitis C
- Work with animals infected with hepatitis A
The vaccine is the only way to immunize against hepatitis A—but not everyone should get it. The hepatitis A vaccine should not be given to:
- Anyone who had a previous severe reaction to the vaccine or is allergic to any part of the vaccine
- People who are ill (if you’re sick, you should wait until you’re feeling better to get vaccinated)
- Anyone with cancer, HIV/AIDS, or another immune system disease
- Anyone on antibiotics (you should be off antibiotics for at least three days before receiving a hepatitis A vaccine)
If you’re not sure whether you should get a hepatitis A vaccine, talk to your doctor about your options.
What determines the cost of a hepatitis A vaccine?
Amino found that the median network rate for a hepatitis A vaccine is $179. The cost ranges across the US from $131 to $276—a significant difference.
Because of the ACA, there’s a good chance that you’ll pay $0 out-of-pocket for your vaccine if you have insurance. However, there are a number of factors that could affect how much you pay, including:
Whether you have health insurance. If you don’t have health insurance, you may have to pay the full cost of the vaccine out-of-pocket, depending on where you go to get it.
Whether your insurance covers related service charges. Under the ACA, insurance companies must cover the full cost of the vaccine itself. However, you may be responsible for charges related to getting the vaccine, like the office visit.
If you go to an out-of-network doctor. The ACA only requires insurance companies to cover the cost of your vaccine if you go to an in-network doctor. You can call your insurance provider ahead of time to make sure your doctor is in-network—or you can use Amino to check. Just click “Look up your current doctor” and type in their name.
You can use Amino as a guide to help you understand how much a vaccine may cost in your area, what factors into the total cost, and how much you might pay out-of-pocket—but you should always double check with your doctor and insurance company.
Will health insurance cover a hepatitis A vaccine?
All Marketplace and Medicare insurance plans plus nearly all private insurance plans are required to cover the hepatitis A vaccine with no cost-sharing. That means the vaccine should be 100% covered without a co-pay or co-insurance, even before you’ve met your deductible, as long as you stay in-network.
To avoid unexpected medical bills, call your insurance provider and ask:
- If they cover the hepatitis A vaccine with no cost-sharing
- If you need preauthorization before the vaccine
- What costs you may have to cover out-of-pocket
- What documentation your doctor needs to provide
All insurance providers have different policies so make sure you call and ask before you schedule your vaccination.
How to get the most for your money
Here are some best practices to make sure you’re getting the most (and best) care for your money:
Ask your insurance company about your costs, like co-insurance, copays, and deductibles.
Utilize your Health Savings Account (HSA), Flexible Spending Account (FSA), and Health Reimbursement Account (HRA) to cover out-of-pocket expenses, if you have any.
Use Amino to compare prices for different doctors.
If you don’t have insurance, look into local health or travel centers—they sometimes have more affordable vaccine options.