CBS19: Bill aims to clarify Medicare coverage of COVID-19 vaccine for beneficiaries

CBS19

A bill has been introduced into the U.S. House of Representatives that would make sure seniors who are on traditional Medicare plans will have access to a future COVID-19 vaccine without cost-sharing.

Representatives Abigail Spanberger and Dusty Johnson introduced the Securing Affordable Vaccines Equally for Seniors Act, or SAVE Act, on Friday.

According to a release, the CARES Act requires Medicare to cover a COVID-19 vaccine without any cost-sharing for the beneficiary, beginning on the date that vaccine is licensed under Section 351 of the Public Health Service Act.

But due to the urgency to develop a vaccine for this virus, the most likely path to market one will take is through an Emergency Use Authorization, which falls under Section 564 of the Federal Food and Drug and Cosmetic Act.

And the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has raised concerns that traditional Medicare beneficiaries could face cost-sharing for a COVID-19 vaccine under the language of the CARES Act.

“Seniors are the most vulnerable to COVID-19, and ensuring that older Americans have affordable, easy access to a vaccine must be a top priority,” said Spanberger. “This bill would correct a critical error in the CARES Act that could inadvertently force Medicare beneficiaries to pay out of pocket for a COVID-19 vaccine. As multiple pharmaceutical companies conduct drug trials on potential vaccines and public health experts warn about a cold-weather resurgence of the coronavirus, correcting this error is an urgent need. Cost shouldn’t be a prohibitive barrier for any American looking to protect themselves with a vaccine.”

The release says this new piece of legislation would clarify that Medicare must cover a COVID-19 vaccine authorized for emergency use without cost-sharing, just as it would have done for one that was licensed under the Public Health Service Act.

It adds that nearly all private insurers have agreed to cover COVID-19 vaccinations for free.

Representatives Chrissy Houlahan, Elissa Slotkin and Brian Fitzpatrick co-sponsored the bill.

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