Saving Money or Avoiding the Flu — What’s the Price Tag on Your Health?

Posted in Savings Account • February 3, 2013

flu shot cost

It’s flu season, which means flu shots are on everyone’s mind. Some people have already been vaccinated against the virus, while others are avoiding the flu shot just as fervently as the flu itself.

A recent study in Men’s Health finds that whether or not people get a flu shot is closely tied to flu shot cost, in which the higher the cost, the less important a vaccination is perceived to be. But is it ever worth it to skip a flu shot to save on the expense? We talked to Elle Kaplan of Lexion Capital Management LLC about saving money, health care costs and flu prevention.

How Much Does a Flu Shot Cost?

Kaplan is quick to point out that flu shots are covered by most health insurance plans at little or no cost to you. She raises an important point, however, even for those who have to pay out of pocket: “Your health is priceless.”

While flu isn’t exactly stage three cancer, people do die from it. Kaplan urges people to look at the Centers for Disease Control website to learn the numbers of people who have died from the flu.

Flu Prevention and Personal Finance

There’s another good point Kaplan brings up about the flu shot: Even if you have to pay out of pocket for your flu shot, there’s a good chance it will cost less than getting the flu. She urges people to compare the cost of a flu shot to what they earn in a single week, as it generally takes five days to get over the flu. “Is it worth it to you to miss out on a week’s worth of salary?” she asks.

Related: Don’t Let Your Medical Bills Bankrupt You

Do Flu Shots Work?

There’s also a recurring urban legend that people can get flu from a flu shot.

Can you get the flu from the flu shot? The short answer is no. Vaccines only contain dead viruses, meaning that there’s literally nothing in the vaccine that can cause you to get sick (though it is possible to have a negative reaction to the shot). The nasal flu vaccine has live virus in it, but everything that can get you sick has been removed from the virus.

The urban legend comes from the fact that many people confuse the flu with the common cold. If you get a flu vaccine and then get sick a few days later, you probably caught a cold from your sick coworker. Kaplan claims that she gets a flu vaccine every year and never gets sick.

Saving Money, Health Care Costs and Your Health

Of course, missing from all of this is the cost of the intangibles related to having the flu. “How much is it worth to you to not feel sick?” asks Kaplan quite aptly.

Particularly for men, who are known to suffer quite heavily from “man flu,” the cost of getting a flu shot might have nothing to do with the cost of missing work or of the shot itself, and everything to do with avoiding the unpleasant symptoms associated with getting the flu. There’s not really a price that can be put on this, but if you could it will be well under the cost of a flu shot.

Where Can I Get a Flu Shot?

You can get a flu shot from your primary care provider, but you can also often get them at a local neighborhood drug store. The Rite Aid flu shot is a staple of many communities.

For those who are going without health insurance, this is a great way to get flu prevention treatment on the cheap. You might have to take off work an hour early or spend a little money gassing up your car, but as Elle Kaplain points out, you can’t put a value on your own health.

Photo: USACE Europe District

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