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Sacramento pharmacy continues its effort for free MPX vaccines, despite insurance hurdles

Pucci's pharmacy is working to provide MPX vaccines, but without insurance reimbursements for administrative costs, it's left to foot the bill.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Pucci's Pharmacy in Sacramento is committed to cutting down on the number of MPX cases in California. It's offering free vaccine pop-up clinics in social areas of downtown Sacramento in an effort of getting the vaccine to the virus' most vulnerable populations. 

Those most at risk are men in relationships with other men, people who are transgender and their partners, as well as women who are in relationships with men who are bisexual.  

Pucci's Pharmacy is working with Sacramento County Public Health and other organizations to hold those pop-up clinics, but it's costing the pharmacy. 

Owner Clint Hopkins said there's no fund for the MPX vaccine like the federal funding for the COVID-19 vaccine. That fund covers all the costs associated with vaccination for the uninsured and underinsured. The government provides the vaccine for free from the nation's stockpile, but health insurance typically covers administrative costs. That's not the case with MPX, leaving Pucci's Pharmacy to foot the bill. 

"We've only been paid actually for one vaccine. One claim went through Medicare. The rest of the claims through the commercial payers, none of them have paid so far, and none of them are acknowledging — they respond and say that they don't recognize the vaccine code," Hopkins said. "The time we spend with the patient, counseling, the actual administration of it, that takes a skilled person that we have to pay, and we should be reimbursed to pay that person."

He said he would like to see a fund to support those without insurance but also for those who want to stay confidential. 

"Maybe someone is in a relationship with someone, they don't know that they're getting the vaccine and in billing their health insurance an EOB (explanation of benefits) would come in the mail, then they would be essentially outed as having received that vaccination, which is not the ideal situation," Hopkins said.

He said covering costs it's not sustainable long-term but that doesn't mean the clinics are over. They're trying to appeal to those who are hesitant, didn't think they need it, or recently fit into the at-risk category. The next pop-up is on October 29 at the Marsha P. Johnson Center in South Sacramento. If you can't make it there, he said appointment slots at the pharmacy go unfilled every day. 

"The number has gone way down, the curve has basically gone to nothing, to flat. It's very important because if we didn't do that if we weren't providing it, we would have more cases of infection in Sacramento County in California. Some of those cases can be severe. It can leave scars. It can be disfiguring, people have actually died." Hopkins said.

Severe cases make up about 1% of the total, but ABC10 Health Expert Dr. Payal Kohli said people should still consider getting vaccinated. 

"It's not just to protect you, which obviously does very efficiently when you get vaccinated, but it's also to prevent the fight against the infection overall. Also, the more infections that happen, the more the virus has a chance to mutate. We're not out of the woods yet," Kohli said.

Learn more about MPX in Sacramento County HERE.

Watch more on ABC10

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