04 October 2019

Today Target paid me $5 to get my flu shot

I went to Target for food and supplies, walked over to the in-store CVS.  Clerk greeted me, checked my insurance, and about 2 minutes later I walked away with the vaccine in my deltoid and a $5 gift certificate in my wallet.  I don't  know whether this is a standard policy nationwide, but it certainly has been in effect at our local Target for the past 2-3 years.  I think I'll go back tomorrow for another shot.

But seriously, this raises some questions for me.  Target has always been a civic-minded company, but they must be making $ on the transaction.  Which suggests to me that this is another example of our national insurance-based health-care system being more expensive than a single-provider one would be.  Does anyone know how much a provider (store, local M.D. etc) is reimbursed for an influenza vaccination?


  1. I have no idea about the reimbursement issue, but our local Publix pharmacy offers a $10 Publix gift card with a flu shot. I'll see if they'll tell me about the reimbursement side of this deal.

  2. From https://www.aarp.org/health/conditions-treatments/info-2018/low-cost-free-flu-shot.html

    For those without insurance coverage, the cost is still relatively low, typically around $30 or $40 for the standard flu shot

    1. IMHO $30-40 is outrageously expensive for a preventive care, public health measure. It should be totally free to everyone. Period.

    2. Excuse my language but: ABSOFUCKINGLUTELY!! $30 - $40!! No deal

  3. https://www.cms.gov/Medicare/Medicare-Fee-for-Service-Part-B-Drugs/McrPartBDrugAvgSalesPrice/VaccinesPricing.html

  4. Maybe they didn't get anything, but are instead betting on the fact that you will return with your $5 coupon, buy $30 worth of stuff that cost them only $18...etc. That is, it is kind of a loss leader to get you in the door, figuring there will be enough profit packed into the rest of it to either still come out ahead...or perhaps as an attempt to just get goodwill from you...which can be worth a lot more than $5.

  5. There was a thread on Twitter recently about a $5 coupon at CVS. The terms of use (the very, very fine print) apparently requires you to sign a HIPAA waiver.

    So they probably make money selling your health information.

  6. Its actually very straightforwards -- they bill your insurance through the CVS Minute Clinic, so while it is no cost to you, your insurance company pays for the shot. (You end up paying for it, by what you or your employer pays for the insurance). Target makes money on your "free" shot by charging your insurance company.

    The coupon is provided for three reasons. First it makes you feel like you're getting something for free, so you'll come into the store. Second, its good advertising, and will bring you back or keep you in the store to spend "the free money" you have. And when you spend the money, Target makes a profit on what you spend -- and virtually everyone will spend more than the $5 the coupon is good for, so they'll make profit on whatever you buy above and beyond the coupon.

    I suspect there are some other secondary revenue streams that kick in too -- putting your name in at CVS/ Target means you get on advertising and mailing lists. You have to provide your name and probably contact information when you get the shot, right? How about your email? phone number? All that can be resold, generating more profits and revenues. And advertising works -- you'll see something in an ad and go "oh yeah I want that" and spend more money in the store.


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