OBJECTIVE: The goal was to determine the net return (gain or loss after costs were subtracted from revenues) to private pediatric medical practices from investing time and resources in vaccines and vaccination of their patients.
METHODS: A cross-sectional survey of a convenience sample of private medical practices requested data on all financial and capacity aspects of the practices, including operating expenses; labor composition and wages/salaries; private- and public-purchase vaccine orders and inventories; Medicaid and private insurance reimbursements; patient population; numbers of providers; and numbers, types, and lengths of visits. Costs were assigned to vaccination visits and subtracted from reimbursements from public- and private-pay sources to determine net financial gains/losses from vaccination.
RESULTS: Thirty-four practices responded to the survey. More than one half of the respondents broke even or suffered financial losses from vaccinating patients. With greater proportions of Medicaid-enrolled patients served, greater financial loss was noted. On average, private insurance vaccine administration reimbursements did not cover administration costs unless a child received ≥3 doses of vaccine in 1 visit. Finally, wide ranges of per-dose prices paid and reimbursements received for vaccines indicated that some practices might be losing money in purchasing and delivering vaccines for private-pay patients if they pay high purchase prices but receive low reimbursements.
CONCLUSIONS: We conclude that the vaccination portion of the business model for primary care pediatric practices that serve private-pay patients results in little or no profit from vaccine delivery. When losses from vaccinating publicly insured children are included, most practices lose money.