Shingles Vaccinations Not Covered For Some Medicare Beneficiaries
Many readers have contacted me about health insurance and the Affordable Care Act. Here are answers to some of their questions.
Q. I have Medicare and a Plan F Medigap plan, so I should be covered for all medical needs. But in order to get the shingles vaccination, it will cost me $185. I cant pay this without using my grocery or prescription money. Its totally unfair. What can I do?
A. Shingles is a painful rash caused by a virus that can lead to long-term nerve damage called postherpetic neuralgia. All Medicare Part D prescription drug plans cover the shingles vaccine, which is recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for people age 60 and older. But Medigap plans, which may cover the deductible and coinsurance amounts for services provided under Medicare Parts A and B , dont offer any financial help on the co-payments for vaccines and other drugs covered under Part D.
A Government Accountability Office report published in December found that seniors faced many obstacles to getting needed vaccines, including the shingles vaccine. Many physicians dont recommend or even stock the shingles vaccine, the report found. The amount that the patient pays out of pocket for that vaccine could also be a barrier, according to the report.
First, if you have Part D coverage, contact your plan to make sure the co-payment youre being quoted is accurate.
Can You Get Shingles If You Had The Chickenpox Vaccine
It depends. Anyone who has ever had chickenpox is susceptible to shingles. When the chickenpox virus comes out of hiding and reactivates, it causes numbness, tingling, blisters, and sometimes flu-like symptoms. If you never had chickenpox because you were vaccinated, you run a very low risk of getting shingles.
S Of Medicare That Cover The Shingles Vaccine
The part of Medicare that covers the vaccine is your Medicare Part D plan or the Medicare prescription drug plan. Remember that a Part D plan is optional, so you might not be enrolled in one of these plans unless you decide to sign up for coverage. Part D typically provides coverage for prescription drugs, and the shingles vaccine is one drug that most plans cover. If you are enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan, then your plan likely includes prescription drug coverage that will cover the vaccine. Since these Advantage plans are insurance plans administered by private insurance companies, you should contact your provider if you have any specific coverage questions or need help with the details of your plan. Many people also wonder if Medicare covers eye exams. These Medicare Advantage plans often include additional benefits like dental and vision coverage.
Original Medicare will not cover the shingles vaccine. Medicare Part A, or hospital insurance, pays for hospital stays and inpatient care. Vaccines and preventive services are never covered under Medicare Part A. Medicare Part B, which is more traditional medical insurance, pays for doctors office visits, outpatient care, and many preventive services. Part B will cover many immunizations, like the flu vaccine, pneumonia vaccine, and hepatitis B vaccine. Unfortunately, Part B does not cover the shingles vaccine. If you are not enrolled in a Part D plan, then this vaccine will be an out-of-pocket cost for you.
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How Much Does The Shingles Vaccine Cost
If you are considering getting shingles vaccines in 2022, check with your Medicare Part D prescription drug plan. While all Part D Medicare prescription drug plans will cover the shingles vaccine, the cost you pay will vary. A Medicare Part D prescription drug plan will typically charge you their Tier 3 cost for the vaccine. You can review your Part D prescription drug coverage details for what they charge for a tier 3 prescription.
If you can, it would be prudent to put off the vaccine until 2023. That way you can receive the shingles vaccine with no out of pocket costs.
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.
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Why Do You Need Shingles Shot
For older Americans, the shingles vaccine is an important way to protect against the herpes zoster virus. The virus can cause a painful rash and blisters. It can also lead to serious complications, such as pneumonia, brain damage, and even death.
It is recommended that adults over the age of 60 get the vaccine. If you are over the age of 60, talk to your doctor about whether the shingles vaccine is right for you and let an insurance broker find the best Medicare shingles vaccine plan.
Prescription Drug Coverage And Shingles Treatment
Your doctor may prescribe antiviral drugs such as famciclovir, valacyclovir, and acyclovir. These drugs can help the rash heal more quickly and reduce the chance youll suffer serious side effects. If your pain is severe, your doctor may also write you a prescription for pain medications.
Medicare prescription plans typically cover both antiviral and pain medications, though the specifics will depend on your plan. You may have to pay a deductible or copay.
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Your doctor may also suggest over-the-counter remedies such as lidocaine patches and Tylenol. Prescription plans dont cover over-the-counter medications, even if your doctor recommends them.
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What Should I Do If I Have Shingles
If you think you may have shingles, see a doctor as soon as possible and get a professional diagnosis. While some cases are mild and may clear up on their own without treatment, other cases can cause severe pain and require medication to manage.
Its also important to take steps to avoid spreading the virus. The Centers for Disease Control recommends keeping the rash covered and washing your hands often. Avoid touching the rash as much as possible and avoid contact with people who may be at risk, including:
- Premature infants
- Pregnant women who have not had chickenpox or been vaccinated for it
- People with HIV or weakened immune systems due to cancer treatment, organ transplant, or immunosuppressive drugs
Your doctor may recommend antiviral drugs, or simply treating the rash with over-the-counter medication such as calamine lotion to soothe the pain of the blisters. Treatment can reduce the pain and duration of the symptoms, but doesnt cure the disease altogether.
For many seniors, the most painful part of shingles isnt the rash, but post-herpetic neuralgia, which can last a year or more in some cases. Although not everyone who gets shingles will experience post-herpetic neuralgia, it can have a big impact on those that do. Some people develop chronic pain that lasts for years and affects their quality of life.
Vaccines Covered By Medicare Part B
Medicare Part B covers three important vaccines as part of its preventive care benefits.
Covered vaccines include the following:
- Flu vaccine: Annual vaccine given in one shot before or during flu season, usually November through April
- Pneumonia vaccine: One-time vaccine given in two shots at least one year apart
- Hepatitis B vaccine: One-time vaccine given in two to four shots over one to six months for people who are medium to high risk, including people with diabetes
Part B also covers vaccines you may need if youre exposed to a harmful virus or bacteria by accident. You might need a tetanus shot, for example, if you step on a rusty nail. Or you may need rabies shots if youre bitten by a stray dog.
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What Are The Possible Side Effects Of Shingrix
Studies show that Shingrix is safe. The vaccine helps your body create a strong defense against shingles. As a result, you are likely to have temporary side effects from getting the shots. The side effects might affect your ability to do normal daily activities for 2 to 3 days.
Most people got a sore arm with mild or moderate pain after getting Shingrix, and some also had redness and swelling where they got the shot. Some people felt tired, had muscle pain, a headache, shivering, fever, stomach pain, or nausea. Some people who got Shingrix experienced side effects that prevented them from doing regular activities. Symptoms went away on their own in about 2 to 3 days. Side effects were more common in younger people.
You might have a reaction to the first or second dose of Shingrix, or both doses. If you experience side effects, you may choose to take over-the-counter pain medicine such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen.
Guillain-Barré syndrome , a serious nervous system disorder, has been reported very rarely after Shingrix. There is also a very small increased risk of GBS after having shingles.
If you experience side effects from Shingrix, you should report them to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System . Your doctor might file this report, or you can do it yourself through the VAERS websiteexternal icon, or by calling 1-800-822-7967.
If you have any questions about side effects from Shingrix, talk with your doctor.
How To Find Out If Your Medicare Plan Covers Shingles Vaccines
If you have a Medicare Advantage plan with prescription drug coverage, or a standalone Part D plan, then you should be covered for the shingles vaccine in many circumstances. But how you find out how much of the cost your plan covers?
First, find out how your insurer categorizes the shingles vaccine on their formulary. A lot of plans list Shingrix on Tier 3 drug as a preferred brand-name drug. Unfortunately, there isnt a generic version of the vaccine, so there isnt much you can do about that.
Second, look up your copay for that tier of drugs. It could range from $0 to over $100 depending on your plan, and depending on whether you get the vaccine in or out of network.
Also, if you havent yet reached the annual deductible for your insurance plan yet, youll have to pay the entire amount out of pocket .
So, while all Part D plans are required to cover the shingles vaccines, the amount that they cover varies widely between insurers.
If youre just signing up for a Medicare plan and expect to get the shingles vaccine within the next year, you can choose a plan that has a lower copay. Or, you can switch plans during the annual open enrollment period to find one that covers it at a better price.
If you currently have private insurance, then it may be a good idea to get the vaccine before enrolling in Medicare, since many private insurers cover it under preventative care.
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Is Shingrix Covered By Medicaid
Shingrix is a shingles vaccine often given to adults over 50 and younger adults with compromised immune systems. Medicaid likely covers Shingrix in the 38 states with expanded Medicaid coverage and the District of Columbia. You can find out if your state has expanded Medicaid on the Medicaid website. Medicaid is less likely to cover Shingrix in states without expanded coverage.
If Medicaid covers the Shingrix vaccine in your state, you’ll most likely need to have it at an in-network facility. The average copayment for covered beneficiaries is less than $5 per shot.
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S For Getting Coverage For The Shingles Vaccine
If you currently only have Original Medicare, how can you get coverage for the shingles vaccine? First, you will need to sign up for a Medicare Advantage Plan or a Medicare Part D prescription drug plan to get coverage for the shingles vaccine. You should thoroughly research the plans available in your area. Eligibility for Advantage plans is based partly on where you live, so not all plans are available in all areas. An independent insurance agent can also help you choose the best Medicare Advantage plan for your needs.
Once you find a plan that meets your needs, you should check the coverage details to make sure that the shingles vaccine is covered. More than likely, you will need to meet a deductible before the plan pays for treatment. If you have already met your deductible and paid for the vaccine out-of-pocket, then you might be eligible for reimbursement for some of the charges. If you have questions about Medicare coverage for the shingles vaccine, there are many resources available at Medicare.gov. You can also give them a call at 1-800-633-4227 or TTY at 1-877-486-2048.
What Are My Options For The Shingles Shot
The two options for the shingles shot are Zostavax and Shingrix. Zostavax, according to the Mayo Clinic, protects against shingles for about five years. Itâs a live vaccine given as a single shot in the upper arm. The Zostavax shingles shot is recommended to adults age 60 and over which reduces the risk of developing shingles by 51%, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention .
Studies suggest that Shingrix offers protection against shingles for more than five years. Itâs a nonliving vaccine given in two doses. The Shringrix shingles shot is recommended for adults age 50 and older.
The Shingrix shingles vaccine is more effective than Zostavax. Shingrix is more than 97% effective in preventing shingles in adults 50 to 69 years old after two doses. The Shingrix shingles vaccine is 91% effective in preventing shingles in adults age 70 and older, according to the CDC.
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Does Medicare Pay For The Shingles Shot
If you have Medicare with a separate Part D plan, your prescription coverage will include shingles shots. Several companies sell prescription plans, and each has its own deductibles, copays, and network of preferred pharmacies.
- If you get your shot at a preferred pharmacy, your pharmacy will bill Medicare, and youll pay any deductibles or copays.
- At a pharmacy outside your plans preferred network, youll pay more.
- If you get a shot at your doctors office, your doctor may be able to work with a pharmacy to bill Medicare directly. Or you may have to pay up-front and ask Medicare to reimburse you. Be aware that your doctors fee for administering the vaccine may be more than your prescription plan will pay.
Often the most cost-effective way to get a shingles vaccine is to get a prescription from your doctor and then go to a pharmacy in your plans network to get your shot.
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Does Medicare Cover Shingles Vaccines
Yes, Medicare does cover shingles vaccines. Effective January 01, 2023 the shingles vaccine, Shingrix, is available for free to all Medicare beneficiaries.
The Shingrix vaccine is covered under your Medicare Part D prescription drug plan. The newly passed Inflation Protection Act has changed what an insurance company can charge for the vaccine as of January 01, 2023. Prior to January 2023 the decision on what to charge for shingles vaccine coverage was up to each individual Part D plan. As of 2023 all Part D drug coverage must offer the Shingrix vaccine free of charge. It does not matter if you have a Original Medicare and a stand-alone Part D plan or a Part D plan that is bundled with your Medicare Advantage Plan. All are now required to offer the vaccine at no cost to the consumer. You can get the shingles vaccine with no out of pocket cost.
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