Which Medicare Providers Cover The Shingles Vaccine
All Medicare Plan D plans offer some level of coverage for the shingles vaccine. However, coverage varies by company, and your actual cost will depend on your plan details and if youve already met your deductible.
Youll get the best deal on shingles vaccine coverage with a Medicare plan from Aetna or Wellcare.
In both cases, a shingles vaccine dose costs less than $50, and the Part D plans are affordable, averaging $36 to $37 per month.
Typical costs based on available plans in Charlotte, N.C. , Boston , and Los Angeles .
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Remember that coverage for the shingles vaccine is usually just one aspect of your prescription drug needs. And the best Medicare Part D plan for you is determined by its total performance, including how well its coverage matches your prescription needs.
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How Long Does Shingrix Last
The Shingrix vaccine can remain effective for at least four years in most people and even longer in others. You must get the entire series to be protected against shingles, which includes two separate shots. Even if you have had the infection, getting vaccinated can still offer benefits because it may help reduce the risk of developing PHN.
Shingrix may not protect everyone, but it provides broader protection for older adults whose immune systems are declining with age or disease.
Does Medicare Cover Pneumonia Shots
Medicare Part B typically covers pneumonia shots, which help prevent certain types of pneumonia.
Medicare Advantage plans also cover pneumonia shots. Many Medicare Advantage plans also cover prescription drugs and other benefits that Medicare Part A and Part B don’t cover.
Medicare typically covers 100 percent of the Medicare-approved amount of your pneumococcal vaccine .
Before getting your pneumonia shot, verify with your doctor that it is 100 percent covered by Medicare.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends PPSV23 pneumococcal vaccinations for all adults who are 65 years of age or older.
There are currently two pneumococcal vaccines that have been approved for use for the prevention of pneumonia. Both vaccines are covered under Medicare Part B however, the order in which you receive them matters. Talk to your health care provider to learn more.
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Does Medicare Cover The Hepatitis B Vaccine
Medicare Part B and Medicare Advantage plans will cover injection of the Hepatitis B vaccine if you are considered at medium or high risk for Hepatitis B.
You may have an increased risk if:
- You have hemophilia
- You live with another person who has Hepatitis B
- You work in health care and have frequent contact with blood and other bodily fluids
Your doctor can help you determine if youre at increased risk for contracting Hepatitis B.
Medicare And The Shingles Vaccine
In most cases, Original Medicare will not cover vaccinations and immunizations. The exceptions to this rule are vaccines for influenza, pneumonia, hepatitis B, and COVID-19. Part B can also cover vaccinations needed following exposure to a dangerous virus or disease. This could include tetanus shots after scraping yourself on a rusty nail or rabies shots after getting bitten by a dog.
Other vaccinations, including those for shingles, will require you to either pay out of pocket or use a different form of coverage such as private insurance or Medicare Part D.
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Solving The Part D Oop Problem
When the MMA was passed, vaccine OOP costs were only a theoretical problem. Then, in 2005, the first pertussis-containing vaccine for adults was licensed, followed by the first shingles vaccine in 2006. A 2011 GAO report showed that relatively few Medicare beneficiaries received these vaccines, and cost sharing was cited as a barrier to access.
A 2018 Avalere Health analysis I led found that uptake of the shingles vaccine was 40% to 60% higher when a Part D plan offered $0 cost sharing. In 2016, 95% of Part D beneficiaries encountered vaccine cost sharing, with OOP costs averaging $85. Other studies have affirmed that cost sharing is a definite barrier to vaccine access, resulting in lower uptake.
Over the years, the CMS has encouraged Part D plan sponsors to offer a $0 or low cost-sharing formulary tier for vaccines, but the offering remained optional. Passage of the Inflation Reduction Act now makes this mandatory and removes a barrier to vaccine uptake.
Medicare And The Shingles Vaccine: Are You Covered
The shingles vaccine is covered through Medicare Part D or Medicare Advantage as part of your prescription drug benefits. In 2022, your actual costs for the vaccine depend on the specifics of your plan.
Beginning Jan. 1, 2023, all vaccines will be free under Medicare Advantage or Part D including shingles. No matter your plan, you’ll pay no deductible, copay or other costs for a shingles vaccine.
In 2022, you could pay less than $50 per shingles shot with a Medicare Part D plan from Aetna or Wellcare. If you don’t have prescription drug coverage, the full price for two doses of the Shingrix vaccine is $324, and several cost-saving options can help you get Shingrix for less.
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What Parts Of Medicare Cover The Shingles Vaccine
Original Medicare Part A and Part B doesnt cover the shingles vaccine. However, there are other Medicare plans that may cover at least part of the costs. These include:
- Medicare Part C. Medicare Advantage is a plan you can buy through a private insurance company. It may offer additional benefits not covered by original Medicare, including some preventive services. Many Medicare Advantage plans include prescription drug coverage, which would cover the shingles vaccine.
- Medicare Part D. This is the prescription drug coverage portion of Medicare and typically covers commercially available vaccines. Medicare requires Part D plans to cover the shingles shot, but the amount it covers can be very different from plan to plan.
Making Sure Youre covered
There are a few steps you can take to make sure your shingles vaccine is covered if you have Medicare Advantage with drug coverage or Medicare Part D:
- If your doctor cant bill your plan directly, ask your doctor to coordinate with an in-network pharmacy. The pharmacy might be able to give you the vaccine and bill your plan directly.
- File your vaccine bill for reimbursement with your plan if you cant do either of the options above.
If you have to file for reimbursement, youll have to pay the full price of the shot when you get it. Your plan should reimburse you, but the amount covered will vary based on your plan and if the pharmacy was in your network.
Vaccines Covered By Medicare Part D
Medicare Part D covers all commercially available vaccines needed to prevent illness. You can get Part D coverage through a stand-alone Medicare prescription drug plan or a Medicare Advantage plan that includes drug coverage.
Vaccines covered by Part D include the following:
- Shingles vaccine: One-time vaccine given in two shots over two to six months
- Tdap vaccine : One shot if youve never been vaccinated, and a booster every ten years
- Other vaccines covered: Vaccines that are “reasonable and necessary” to prevent illness and are not covered by Part B
Part D may also cover vaccines you may need if you are traveling internationally. Talk with your doctor about your travel plans and ask what vaccines are recommended.
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Why Doesnt Medicare Cover The Shingles Vaccine As Free For All Seniors
Many people think that a vaccine thats recommended by the CDC for those over age 50 would be fully covered by Original Medicare. However, there are a few reasons why you may end up paying hundreds of dollars for the two-dose regimen.
- Medicare coverage levels: Some Medicare drug plans have better cost-sharing benefits than others, and how much you pay for the shingles vaccine depends on the plan you choose.
- Pharmaceutical classification: Medicare classifies the Shingrix vaccine as a part of its pharmaceutical coverage, meaning it would fall under Medicare Part D coverage rather than Part A or Part B. In contrast, most private health insurance, either through an employer or through the marketplace, classifies the shingles vaccine as a part of its free preventative coverage.
- Type of pharmaceutical: Shingrix is a Tier 3 drug made by GlaxoSmithKline, and there isnt a generic alternative. This could mean that your out-of-pocket costs are higher than for other medications.
Brief History Of Medicare Vaccine Coverage
For much of the 20th century, vaccination efforts concentrated on the childhood population, resulting in the successful reduction of morbidity and mortality associated with at least nine infectious diseases.
Following the development of the first vaccines for older adults, like influenza and pneumococcal disease, Congress amended the Medicare statute throughout the 1980s to ensure beneficiary access to these new vaccines and the Hepatitis B vaccine for those beneficiaries at intermediate to high risk of contracting the disease. As it enacted these coverage requirements under Part B, Congress took care to prohibit beneficiary cost sharing so that seniors would not be discouraged from receiving vaccines.
Eventually, in 2003, Congress passed the Medicare Modernization Act, creating Medicare Part D, a prescription drug benefit for seniors. Under the MMA, implemented in 2005, Part D sponsors must cover all commercially available vaccines except those covered under Part B. This inexplicable decision to cover future vaccines under the prescription drug benefit while leaving previous vaccine coverage in Part B created a peculiar split in Medicare vaccine coverage. There is no meaningful clinical distinction between Part B and Part D vaccines that justifies the separation. The result is an unevenness of vaccine coverage and access across settings of care and population segments, which will be perpetuated as new vaccines for older adults are licensed and recommended.
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Who Should Not Get Zostavax
Some people should not get shingles vaccine :
The Shingles Prevention Study involved individuals age 60 years and older and found that Zostavax significantly reduced disease in this age group. The vaccine is currently recommended for persons 60 years of age and older.
- A person who has ever had a life-threatening or severe allergic reaction to gelatin, the antibiotic neomycin, or any other component of shingles vaccine. Tell your doctor if you have any severe allergies.
- A person who has a weakened immune system because of:
- HIV/AIDS or another disease that affects the immune system,
- treatment with drugs that affect the immune system, such as steroids,
- cancer treatment such as radiation or chemotherapy, or
- cancer affecting the bone marrow or lymphatic system, such as leukemia or lymphoma.
Someone with a minor acute illness, such as a cold, may be vaccinated. But anyone with a moderate or severe acute illness should usually wait until they recover before getting the vaccine. This includes anyone with a temperature of 101.3°F or higher.
This information was taken from the Shingles Vaccine Information Statement dated 10/06/2009.
What Is The Shingrix Vaccine
Shingrix is the U.S. Food and Drug Administrationapproved vaccine aimed to prevent shingles infection in individuals older than 50 years and adults aged 18 years and older who are or who will be at increased risk of shingles due to a disease or therapy that can compromise the immunity.
The Herpes Zoster virus is the same virus that causes chickenpox in children. The virus may remain dormant in the persons nerve roots and become active when the immunity wanes .
The reactivated virus causes shingles or Herpes Zoster, a painful condition characterized by painful red blisters over the body, rash, and/or fever.
- A particular complication of shingles is postherpetic neuralgia , which persists for months after the infection subsides.
- It is characterized by extreme pain at the former site of rash and lesions.
- This pain may or may not respond to strong medications hence, a vaccine against shingles is required.
The Shingrix vaccine works by exposing the body to small doses of the inactive herpes virus. This stimulates the bodys immune system and helps the body to develop an immunity to herpes zoster or shingles.
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Where To Get The Shingles Vaccine
You have a few different options on where to get the shingles vaccine. You usually can receive it directly from your doctor at a doctors office or at a pharmacy.
The major pharmacy chains typically offer shingles shots so you should be able to get it at a location near you. You will still need a prescription from your doctor in order to get it at a pharmacy.
Who Can Administer Your Shingles Shot?
The vaccine is administered as a shot to your upper arm. While the Shingrix vaccine is safe and effective at preventing shingles, there are some possible side effects. According to the CDC, you may experience some common mild symptoms associated with vaccines, such as arm soreness, muscle pain or a headache.
Remember that the vaccine comes in two doses, so you will have to return to wherever you got the shot two to six months later to receive the second dose. The immune reaction may come with the first or second dose, or with both doses of Shingrix.
How To Get Free Shingles Vaccines
If youre covered by a private health plan other than Medicare, such as through your employer or the healthcare exchanges under the Affordable Care Act, virtually all recommended vaccines are required by law to be provided at no cost to you. In that case, this means you can get a free shingles vaccine, as well as any other vaccine recommended by the CDC.
If you want to avoid any out-of-pocket cost for a shingles vaccine, you should consider getting the vaccine before switching from your private insurance to Medicare.
If youre already on Medicare and are a beneficiary of a Part D plan or an Advantage Plan that includes prescription drug coverage, you will pay less for a vaccine under the plan after you meet the plans deductible in a given year.
In addition, some Medicare Part D beneficiaries qualify for extra help provisions, which aid in paying for their monthly premiums, annual deductibles, and co-payments related to Medicare prescription drug coverage.
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What Steps Can You Take To Make Sure You Are Covered If You Have Medicare Advantage With Drug Coverage Or Medicare Part D
If you already have Medicare Advantage, or Medicare Part D, contact your provider to check your coverage. Medicare Advantage plans are offered by private companies that Medicare approves.
If you are not yet on Medicare and want to find a plan that covers the shingles shot, you can use Medicares Find a Medicare Plan tool. This tool allows you to compare Medicare Advantage and Part D plans.
Who Needs The Shingles Vaccine
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention , the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices recommends the shingles vaccine for people aged 50 and older. It is a manufactured inactivated vaccine intended to prevent shingles. The vaccine is administered in two separate doses given by intramuscular injection, separated by two to six months.
The shingles vaccine is considered an important vaccine for seniors because our immune system weakens as we age. The recommendation for vaccination is based on the potential severity of symptoms and long-term complications.
A shingles vaccine called Zostavax is no longer used in the U.S. as of November 2020. If you received that vaccine, the CDC recommends talking with your doctor about getting the Shingrix vaccine.
|The CDCs fact sheet on shingles lists these risks and potential complications:|
Shingrix is more than 90% effective at preventing shingles, but it does not prevent chickenpox.
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Why Is The Shingles Vaccine Recommended
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that healthy adults 50 years and older get two doses of Shingrix two to six months apart to prevent shingles and complications from the disease. The vaccine is typically administered to adults who are 50 years and older. There is no maximum age for getting Shingrix.
It is also given to those who have received a live zoster vaccine in the past.
The studies report that two doses of Shingrix will be more than 90 percent effective at preventing shingles and its complication called postherpetic neuralgia.
The vaccine protects you at least 85 percent of the time for the first four years after vaccination.
You should get Shingrix even if you have a history as follows:
- Already had shingles