What This Means For You
Medicare open enrollment starts Saturday, October 15. If you have Original Medicare and a supplemental plan and are happy with your coverage, you do not need to make a change.
If you have a Medicare Advantage or Part D plan, you should review all your coverage options, even if you are happy with your current coverage, because plans change each year.
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.
What Is Shingles And How Do You Catch It
Shingles is a painful skin rash that forms on one side of the body. It is caused by the same virus that causes chickenpox, the varicella-zoster virus. Shingles can affect people who have had chickenpox, even if they had the illness long ago.
Once youve had chickenpox, the virus becomes inactive in the body and can reactivate years later. The virus can remain inactive in your nerve roots for many years, and then wake up and travel down the path of a sensory nerve to the skincausing shingles. You may develop shingles more than once in your lifetime.
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How Effective Is Shingrix
The CDC statistics show that Shingrix is 97% effective at preventing shingles in adults 50 to 69 years of age. The vaccine is 91% effective for those age 70 and older. These statistics refer to people with health immune systems. In adults with less than healthy immune systems the vaccine was still between 68% and 91% effective.
It should be noted that a shingles vaccine called Zostar is no longer available in the United States as of November 18, 2020. CDC recommends that those who had the Zostar vaccine also get Shingrix. As always, please consult your healthcare provider. The effectiveness of the Zostar vaccine decreases with age and it was never as effective as Shingrix.
Medicare Does Not Cover Shingrix But Soon It Will
Haley Hernandez, Health Reporter
The CDC recommends adults 50 years and older get two doses of the shingles vaccine called Shingrix to prevent complications from the disease.
Its more than 90% effective in preventing illness, according to the CDC. But for many people on Medicare, its unaffordable.
Despite covering preventative care, Medicare does not cover the shingles vaccine and at times charges up to $200 for the shot.
In January, that will change. The Inflation Reduction Act aims to reduce the cost of some drugs and close this barrier to good healthcare.
As of January 2023, all vaccinations that are covered under Medicare part D that are approved and recommended by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid, and also by the CDC, will be covered without a co-pay. So, no cost sharing is going to be associated with , said Alejandra Rischan, lead benefits counselor for the Houston-Galveston area Counsel.
Rischan said the most common question she gets is why the shingles vaccine isnt covered by Medicare, but the Inflation Reduction Act is set to change that.
All these changes are kind of slowly trickling out with the information, and there are a lot of changes that are going to be coming in the next five years for folks who are on Medicare to save a little bit more money, so were really excited to see the rollout of this program, Rischan said.
Also Check: How Long Before Shingles Rash Appears
When Should I See A Doctor Because Of The Side Effects I Experience From Shingrix
Shingrix causes a strong response in your immune system, so it may produce short-term side effects. These side effects can be uncomfortable, but they are expected and usually go away on their own in 2 or 3 days. You may choose to take over-the-counter pain medicine such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen. Contact your healthcare provider if the symptoms are not improving or if they are getting worse.
In clinical trials, Shingrix was not associated with serious adverse events. In fact, serious side effects from vaccines are extremely rare. For example, for every 1 million doses of a vaccine given, only one or two people might have a severe allergic reaction. Signs of an allergic reaction happen within minutes or hours after vaccination and include hives, swelling of the face and throat, difficulty breathing, a fast heartbeat, dizziness, or weakness. If you experience these or any other life-threatening symptoms, see a doctor right away.
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.
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% Coverage For Recommended Vaccines
Additionally, there will no longer be any cost-sharing for recommended inoculations under Part D beginning Jan. 1, including for the shingles vaccine.
“In the past, many people paid quite a bit for the shingles vaccine because of Part D’s rather high deductible,” said Danielle Roberts, co-founder of insurance firm Boomer Benefits.
“The vaccine usually was a covered medication, but because they hadn’t yet satisfied the deductible, they spent quite a bit for it,” Roberts said.
Other provisions that are intended to reduce Part D spending take effect in later years. This includes eliminating an existing 5% coinsurance in the so-called catastrophic phase of coverage, which takes effect in 2024, and capping beneficiaries’ annual out-of-pocket Part D spending at $2,000, which takes effect in 2025. Currently, there is no out-of-pocket limit, regardless of whether you get your coverage as a standalone Part D option or through an Advantage Plan.
Medicare also will be able to start negotiating the price of some drugs beginning in 2026.
Is The Shingles Shot Free For Seniors
The shingles vaccine is not free for all seniors, and how much you pay depends on your Medicare Part D plan or your Medicare Advantage prescription drug benefits. Seniors who don’t have a prescription drug plan will have to pay full price for the shingles vaccine or use a cost-saving method to get the vaccine at a discounted price.
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Find Medicare Advantage Coverage For The Shingles Vaccine
Contact a licensed insurance agent today to find out if a Medicare Advantage plan is available where you live that will cover the shingles vaccine.
Find Medicare plans that cover the shingles vaccine
Or call 1-800-557-6059TTY Users: 711 to speak with a licensed insurance agent. We accept calls 24/7!
1 Umansky, Diane. The New Shingles Vaccine: What You Should Know About Shingrix. . Consumer Reports. Retrieved from www.consumerreports.org/shingles-vaccine/new-shingles-vaccine-shingrix-what-you-should-know.
2 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Shingles Vaccination. . Retrieved from www.cdc.gov/vaccines/vpd/shingles/public/shingrix/index.html.
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.
Christians passion for his role stems from his desire to make a difference in the senior community. He strongly believes that the more beneficiaries know about their Medicare coverage, the better their overall health and wellness is as a result.
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Some Vaccines Covered Better Than Others
Unlike the flu and pneumonia vaccines, which are fully covered as preventive services under Medicare Part B, the shingles shot and other recommended vaccinations are covered as prescription drugs under Medicare Part D and Medicare Advantage plans.
Some of those plans provide better coverage than others, but nearly all of them divide their formularies, or list of covered drugs, into tiers according to cost. Drugs in Tier 1 and 2, mainly lower-priced generics and preferred brand-name drugs, have lower co-pays than more expensive nonpreferred brands in Tier 3 or 4.
Consumer Reports found that many Part D plans categorize the shingles vaccine, Zostavax, as an expensive Tier 3 or 4 drug. Only one pharmaceutical companyMerckmakes the shingles shot, and theres currently no generic version.
That means if you havent met your annual deductible, youll likely wind up paying full price for the shot, which is about $217. But depending on your plan, even after the deductible is met, consumers may have to pay a significant part of the shingles vaccine costup to $100.
Many healthcare providers havent set up billing systems to file claims through prescription drug plans. So if youre vaccinated at your doctors office, you might be required to pay the full shingles vaccine cost up front and then file to be reimbursed by your insurance.
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Where And How To Get Vaccinated For Shingles
Medicare requires all Part D plans to cover the shingles vaccine. However, since Part D plans have networks, youll want to be sure you get the vaccine at a pharmacy in the plans network.
Do not get the shingles vaccine at your doctors office. Doctors offices dont have the ability to bill Part D plans. Therefore, getting the vaccine at your doctors office could result in you paying the entire bill and having to submit a reimbursement request to your plan.
Who Should Get A Shingles Vaccine
The Centers for disease control and prevention recommends that all adults 50-years of age and older receive two doses of Shingrix. The doses should be administered between two and six months apart.
People with weakened immune systems who are age 19 and older should also get the vaccine , if needed. Older adults, age 50 and older should also consider the vaccine.
The shingles vaccine should be available at your doctors office and most pharmacies. It is highly recommended that you make certain you use an in network pharmacy. Check with your Medicare Part D plan to be certain of your drug plans network.
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Vaccine Effectiveness And Safety
The vaccine reduces your chance of getting the virus by more than 50%, depending on your age. Vaccine effectiveness is higher among seniors between 65 and 70 years old.
No vaccine is 100% effective. If you get vaccinated, you may still develop shingles. But the infection would likely be less severe and youd be better protected from complications.
The vaccine has been licenced by Health Canada, having met all requirements under the Food and Drugs Act.
Do I Need A Prescription For A Shingles Vaccine
Once you have a Medicare insurance plan that covers the shingles vaccine, youll need to find out whether a prescription is necessary. This is dependent on where you get vaccinated. You wont need a prescription if you get vaccinated at your doctors office.
Some pharmacies that provide vaccines do so under the standing order of a supervising physician. This is convenient for patients because it saves them a trip to the doctors office to acquire a prescription before receiving the vaccine. You may need to call your pharmacy to see how they handle shingles vaccine orders.
If your pharmacy requires a prescription, youll need to contact your medical provider first. They may want to see you in the office beforehand, but not always. Sometimes, the doctor may give you the shingles vaccine at your appointment.
Once you have the prescription in your possession, the remaining steps are pretty straightforward. Take the prescription to a pharmacy in your plans network to be filled. A pharmacist will administer the vaccine in their clinic area.
Its possible to save money on shingles vaccines with a SingleCare pharmacy savings card. SingleCare coupons can help uninsured or underinsured patients get shingles vaccines at a discounted price.
RELATED: Find a pharmacy near you
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Beneficiaries With Higher Income Pay More For Coverage
The average monthly premium for standard Part D coverage next year is projected to be $31.50, compared with $32.08 in 2022, according to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. However, be aware that if your income is above certain limits, you will be subject to so-called income-related monthly adjustment amounts, or IRMAAs, which are in addition to any premium you pay . Part B also comes with those extra amounts.
Your tax return from 2021 is generally what would be used to determine whether you’re subject to those surcharges in 2023. You can ask for a reconsideration if your income has dropped since then.
Getting prescription drug coverage through Medicare is optional. However, if you fail to sign up when you first qualify for coverage at age 65 and change your mind later, you’ll face a lifelong penalty unless you meet certain exclusions, i.e., you receive acceptable coverage through an employer.
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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Make A Plan To Get 2 Doses
- You can get Shingrix at your doctors office or pharmacy. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist about getting Shingrix.
- Plan to get your second dose of Shingrix 2 to 6 months after your first dose.
Five years later, I still take prescription medication for pain. My shingles rash quickly developed into open, oozing sores that in only a few days required me to be hospitalized. I could not eat, sleep, or perform even the most minor tasks. It was totally debilitating. The pain still limits my activity levels to this day.
A 63-year-old harpist who was unable to continue playing due to shingles
What Does The Shingles Vaccine Do
The shingles vaccine can prevent shingles. Every year, about 1 million people in the United States get shingles. Anyone whos had chickenpox can get shingles. Thats because the varicella-zoster virus lives silently in your nervous system after youve had chickenpox. The virus can reactivate later in your life if your immune system is weakened. Your risk of getting shingles goes up as you get older. In the United States, 1 in 3 people will get shingles in their lifetime.
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What Are The Symptoms Of Shingles
Shingles is a rash that typically affects one side of your body, usually your torso. It is often painful and sensitive to the touch. The rash often becomes visible a few days after you notice the pain. The rash develops into fluid-filled blisters that can break open and start itching.
In addition to a rash, other symptoms may include fever, headaches, fatigue and sensitivity to light.
Medicare Part D Coverage
Original Medicare doesnt cover most prescription drugs, but you do have the option of purchasing a Part D plan. These plans are sold by private insurers and offer coverage for a range of prescription drugs.
While there is some variation in Part D plans since they are provided by different private companies, they typically must include coverage for Shingrix.
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