How Does Medicare Cover The Shingles Vaccine
Original Medicare, Part A and Part B, does not cover the shingles vaccination but Medicare Part D does. To get this covered, you must enroll in either a stand-alone Medicare prescription drug plan or a Medicare Advantage plan that includes prescription drug coverage . You may have a copayment for the shingles vaccine.
What Happens When You Get The Vaccine
As mentioned above, there is one option for the shingles vaccine: Shingrix.
Shingrix, which contains no live virus, is a two-dose vaccine series given in the muscle of the upper arm. The second shot is given two to six months after the first. In clinical trials, it was effective in nearly 97% of adults in their 50s over 97% effective for people in their 60s and over 91% effective for those aged 70 and above. It remains at near 85% effectiveness in all four years following vaccination.18
Shingrix is recommended if youre age 50 or older and have no severe immune problems.19
Effectiveness does come with a cost: In studies, seven in 10 people experienced pain from the Shingrix vaccine, and nearly half have muscle pain or fatigue and some had headaches, shivering, fever and nausea.20 21The CDC suggests avoiding strenuous activities for two to three days after getting either Shingrix shot.
If have previously received Zostavax, you can consider getting Shingrix. The CDC says Shingrix was safe and immunogenic when given five years or later after Zostavax. The agency adds there is no data or theoretical concerns that Shingrix would be any less effective if given sooner. 21
Zostavax was discontinued in 2020 by Merck and is no longer available in the United States.
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
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Enroll In A Medicare Advantage Plan
Another option is to enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan, sometimes referred to as Medicare Part C.
Medicare Advantage Plans are offered by Medicare-approved private companies. Most Medicare Advantage Plans include drug coverage . You will also get most of your Part A and Part B coverage from your Medicare Advantage Plan instead of Original Medicare. Learn more about how to join a Medicare Advantage Plan at Medicare.gov. You can also find a Medicare plan there.
In terms of cost, Medicare Advantage plans can be quite affordable. The average monthly premium is just $19 per month in 2022, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, but many Medicare Advantage Plans have a $0 premium.
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Does Medicare Pay For Shingles Vaccines
Some Medicare Part D prescription drug plans and Medicare Advantage plans that include drug coverage may cover the shingles vaccine.
Original Medicare Parts A and B pay for inpatient and outpatient services, respectively, and neither typically pays for shingles vaccines.
Part D drug plans and Medicare Advantage prescription drug plans are offered to eligible Medicare beneficiaries and are sold by private insurance companies. Plans can vary by a wide margin on what they cover and how much they pay for drug-related services, and only a plan representative can give a definitive answer to whether a specific plan pays for SHINGRIX.
Most Part D and MA-PD plans do help cover the singles vaccine, however. The costs a beneficiary may face such as coinsurance, deductibles and copays for the vaccine may vary from plan to plan.
Which Vaccines Does Medicare Cover
Medicare covers most vaccines. Some are covered by Part B, and some are covered by Part D.
Getting the vaccines you need is one of the most important things you can do for your health and for the health of those around you. Vaccines are your first line of defense against a number of infectious diseases. If you dont get sick, then you cant infect your loved ones, your friends or others in your community.
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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.
How Do I Get Coverage For The Shingles Vaccine
Medicare prescription drug plans and Medicare Advantage plans that provide prescription drug coverage generally cover all commercially-available vaccinations. These plans will cover the vaccination medication and the administration of the shot by your doctor or physician. Depending on your plan benefits, you may have to pay a copayment or coinsurance amount. Make sure to follow your planâs guidelines for this vaccination to be covered.
You will pay the least amount of money out of pocket if you are vaccinated at a pharmacy in your drug planâs network. If you have questions about which pharmacies are included in your planâs network, contact your Medicare prescription drug plan or Medicare Advantage prescription drug plan for more information. To find a Medicare Part D plan in your area, enter your zip code on this page.
Medicare information is everywhere. What is hard is knowing which information to trust. Because eHealthâs Medicare related content is compliant with CMS regulations, you can rest assured youâre getting accurate information so you can make the right decisions for your coverage.Read more to learn about our Compliance Program.
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Is There A Downside To The Shingles Vaccine
Though the vaccine is deemed safe by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration , there are certain conditions in which the vaccine may not be safe for you.
- The shingles vaccine has only been tested in adults over age 50 years and immunocompromised adults above 18 years thus, there is no recommendation for the vaccine for younger ages by the FDA.
- You should not get the vaccine if you have had a severe allergic reaction to a previous Shingrix dose.
- You have tested negative for immunity to varicella-zoster virus .
- You have an active shingles infection.
Where To Get Vaccinated
You have a choice on where to get vaccinated.
In your doctors office: You can get vaccinated in your doctors office. If the office is set up to bill Part D directly for your vaccination, you may only have to pay a copay at the time of your shingles shot. If not, you may have to pay all costs upfront and submit a claim to your Part D plan for reimbursement.
At your local pharmacy: You can go to your local pharmacy to get your shingles shot as long as they offer the vaccine and appropriately trained staff members administer it. The rules for pharmacy vaccination vary by state. You will likely need to pay for the vaccination upfront. Pharmacies are not legally required to dispense medications without payment.
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Is The Shingles Shot Covered By Medicare
Original Medicare does not pay for the shingles vaccine. However, if youre enrolled in a Medicare prescription drug plan or have a Medicare Advantage plan that includes drug coverage, your shot may be covered. For vaccines covered under Part D , it is not recommended to get the shot through your providers office, as you may have issues with Part D billing.*
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What Are The Side Effects
The shingles vaccines are very safe.
Common side effects to the vaccines include headache as well as soreness, redness and swelling where the vaccine was given. Itching and a rash may also occur after getting Zostavax® II. Other reactions that may occur after getting Shingrix® include fever, muscle soreness, fatigue, shivering, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.
It is important to stay in the clinic for 15 minutes after getting any vaccine because there is an extremely rare possibility of anaphylaxis, which is a life-threatening allergic reaction. This may include hives, difficulty breathing, or swelling of the throat, tongue, or lips. The chance of true anaphylaxis is about 1 in 1 million vaccine doses. Should this reaction occur, your health care provider is prepared to treat it. Emergency treatment includes administration of epinephrine and transfer by ambulance to the nearest emergency department. If symptoms develop after you leave the clinic, call 9-1-1 or the local emergency number. Learn more about anaphylaxis on our vaccine side effects page.
It is important to always report serious or unexpected reactions to your health care provider.
Why Doesn’t Medicare Cover The Shingles Vaccine As Free For All Seniors
Many people think that a vaccine that’s 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 isn’t a generic alternative. This could mean that your out-of-pocket costs are higher than for other medications.
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Don’t Overpay: Advice For Medicare Patients
Three out of four Americans eligible for the shingles vaccination still havent gotten it, according to the CDC. Not surprisingly, a 2015 report from the National Vaccine Program found that one of the main reasons adults skip recommended vaccines is the cost.
If youve been putting off getting your shingles shot because you were quoted a high price, check your Part D plan. You may be able to get it for less.
Confusion about insurance coverage for the vaccine can sometimes result in patients paying more than they should, Avitzur says.
Dont delay, as the consequences of shingles can be devastating, advises Avitzur, a neurologist who has seen firsthand the painful effects of lingering nerve damage.
Your best bet may be to get the shot at a pharmacy in your drug plans network. Youll still need to get a prescription from your doctor, but the pharmacy will bill your insurance company and youll pay the lowest out-of-pocket costs available under your plan.
If you would like to get vaccinated at your doctors office, ask up front about the cost. Does your doctor charge more to administer the shot than your plan allows? If so, youll be on the hook for the difference. Also see whether the office will bill your Part D or Medicare Advantage plan directly or work with a pharmacy in your network to handle the billing.
Medicare Advantage Plans May Cover More Vaccines Than Original Medicare
Medicare Advantage plans are sold by private insurance companies as an alternative to Original Medicare.
Every Medicare Advantage plan must provide the same hospital and medical benefits as Medicare Part A and Part B, and most plans include Medicare prescription drug coverage.
MAPDs must help cover a number of commercially available vaccines that arent covered by Original Medicare when reasonably and medically necessary to prevent illness. However, specific rules of administration and costs will vary depending on the Medicare Advantage plan you enroll in.
A licensed insurance agent can help you compare Medicare Advantage plans in your area, including what vaccinations may be covered.
Find Medicare plans that cover your vaccinations
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About the author
Christian Worstell is a senior Medicare and health insurance writer with MedicareAdvantage.com. He is also a licensed health insurance agent. Christian is well-known in the insurance industry for the thousands of educational articles hes written, helping Americans better understand their health insurance and Medicare coverage.
Christians work as a Medicare expert has appeared in several top-tier and trade news outlets including Forbes, MarketWatch, WebMD and Yahoo! Finance.
A current resident of Raleigh, Christian is a graduate of Shippensburg University with a bachelors degree in journalism.
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Medicare Coverage For Shingles Vaccine
Shingrix is not the first shingles vaccine, but it is the only one currently on the market in the United States.Instead of using a live virus,the vaccine uses a protein from the virus to trigger an immune response. It is administered in two doses two to six months apart.
This shingles vaccine has been shown to decrease the risk for shingles by 97% for people between 50 and 69 years old and by 91% for people 70 and older. It reduces complications as well. The risk for post-herpetic neuralgia goes down by 91% and 89%, respectively, in those age groups.
Because the vaccine works well, it is important to know if and when Medicare covers it.
What Shingles Vaccines Are Available
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention , there are 2 vaccines licensed and recommended to prevent shingles in the U.S.: Shingrix and Zostavax.2 The CDC recommends that healthy adults 50 years and older get 2 doses of Shingrix, separated by 2 to 6 months, to prevent shingles and the complications from the disease.3
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