A new policy has been implemented in Iowa to make it easier for vulnerable populations to get the flu shot. Nancy Freudenberg is with the Department of Human Services, which administers Medicaid – the state’s health insurance program for disabled and low income Iowans. She says last fall doctor’s offices began sending patients to drug stores when they ran out of the flu shot.

Freudenberg says that created extra paper work for the state which is why they changed the policy this year. “Pharmacies can be reimbursed for the administration of the flu vaccine in the same manner that a physician is reimbursed,” Freudenberg explained. “Previously we’d been covering these under ‘exception to policy’ but we’re trying to reduce those.” Medicaid is now reimbursing Iowa pharmacies for administering the vaccine instead of just physicians.

Freudenberg says the policy change is particularly important now that public health officials have identified three different flu strains in Iowa this year. “To make flu vaccines available in a variety of locations…you see it now, I mean, you can get your flu shots through nearly every drive-through location possible,” Freudenberg said. “So it was the idea of being able to pay pharmacies to do it…one stop shopping.”

Freudenberg says the Iowa Pharmacy Association supports the change but is concerned about the reimbursement rate, which is lower than what physicians receive. She says the DHS agrees there is an inequity and will consider changes.