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Will Medicare Pay For Shingles Shot

Congress Finally Eliminates Part D Vaccine Cost Sharing: Medicare Coverage Is Still Broken

Medicare & You: Vaccines

The Inflation Reduction Act leaves intact a peculiar split in Medicare vaccine coverage that discourages physicians from offering certain vaccines, former Moderna Vice President Richard Hughes argues.

Editors note: Richard Hughes is a member of the firm Epstein Becker Green in the Health Care & Life Sciences practice and a former vice president for Moderna.

In its passage of the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022, Congress has taken the long overdue step of eliminating out of pocket, or OOP, costs for vaccines under Medicare Part D. The OOP prohibition aligns with policies under Medicare Part B and the Affordable Care Act and removes a pharmacy counter barrier that will undoubtedly lead more seniors to be vaccinated against shingles. However, it leaves intact a peculiar split in Medicare vaccine coverage that discourages physicians from offering certain vaccines.

Why Do You Need The Shingles Vaccine

In a word: pain. Shingles commonly appears as a rash, usually across one side of your chest, abdomen or face. What starts as itching or tingling becomes an extremely painful band of blisters. These usually scab over in seven to 10 days and clear up in two to four weeks.4

Shingles is most common among people over the age of 50, so the Centers for Disease Controls recommends the vaccine for anyone over that age.

People with a weak immune system are at even higher risk. Your immunity may be weakened if you:5

  • Are under extreme stress.

Shingles must be active, meaning in the blister phase, to be contagious. You cannot transmit the virus before the blisters appear, nor once they crust over.6 Even if the virus is active, the risk of spreading VZV is low if you keep the shingles rash covered.7

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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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.

How Do I Get Part D

Do Medicare Part D plans cover the shingles vaccine?

Medicare Part D is a great way to get coverage, not only for the shingles vaccine but for prescription drugs as well. There are two ways to add Part D prescription drug coverage to your Medicare health insurance:

  • If you have Original Medicare, you can add on a Part D plan by following this guide. Or call the number below and a licensed sales agent will help you find a plan.
  • If you have Original Medicare or Medicare Advantage, you can switch to an Advantage plan that includes Part D coverage . You can enroll using our guide, or call the number below to receive help from a specialist.
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    You Can Get A Shingles Vaccine Two Ways:

    At the pharmacy. Youll still need a doctors prescription, but once thats been transmitted, you can get the shot at a retail pharmacy.

    Most major chains and some independent pharmacies can administer the vaccine. Just make sure to use a store in your drug plans network so that it can bill your plan directly and youll owe just the copayment.

    At the doctors office. If youre vaccinated in a doctors office, check whether it can bill your drug plan directly or works with a pharmacy that can do so. If so, it will work as mentioned above, with you owing a copayment. If not, you may need to pay the full cost up front and then file a claim for reimbursement from your plan.

    Remember that the doctors fee for administering the vaccine may exceed your plans allowable charge, in which you case youre on the hook for the difference. It pays to check beforehand.

    Editor’s note: This article was originally published on Jan. 1, 2014. It has been updated with the latest information regarding Medicare coverage in 2020.

    What Everyone Should Know About The Shingles Vaccine

    Shingles vaccination is the only way to protect against shingles and postherpetic neuralgia , the most common complication from shingles.

    CDC recommends that adults 50 years and older get two doses of the shingles vaccine called Shingrix to prevent shingles and the complications from the disease. Adults 19 years and older who have weakened immune systems because of disease or therapy should also get two doses of Shingrix, as they have a higher risk of getting shingles and related complications.

    Your doctor or pharmacist can give you Shingrix as a shot in your upper arm.

    Shingrix provides strong protection against shingles and PHN. In adults 50 years and older who have healthy immune systems, Shingrix is more than 90% effective at preventing shingles and PHN. Immunity stays strong for at least the first 7 years after vaccination. In adults with weakened immune systems, studies show that Shingrix is 68%-91% effective in preventing shingles, depending on the condition that affects the immune system.

    Read Also: How To Ease Nerve Pain From Shingles

    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.

    S For Getting Coverage For The Shingles Vaccine

    FDA Approves New 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.

    Also Check: What Triggers An Outbreak Of Shingles

    How Does Medicare Part D Cover The Shingles Vaccine

    Medicare Part D can cover vaccines and prescription drugs. Your vaccine and its cost are on a list in your plans drug formulary, alongside other prescription drug costs. Your vaccine cost counts toward your deductible like other Part D services. You may have to pay the full price for your shingles vaccine if you have not met your annual deductible.

    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.

    Read Also: Is Shingles Shot Covered By Medicare

    Go Through A State Pharmaceutical Assistance Program

    Medicare Part D plans have a yearly deductible. After you reach your Medicare Part D plans deductible, you will still be required to pay a copayment or coinsurance for your shingles vaccine. However, if you go through a State Pharmaceutical Assistance Program , you may be able to get help with these costs.

    What Are The Possible Side Effects Of Shingrix

    Do Seniors Pay For Shingles Vaccine

    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.

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    Do I Have To Pay For Vaccines With Medicare

    You pay nothing for vaccines covered by Part B flu, pneumonia and Hepatitis B as long as your provider accepts Medicare.

    Your cost for vaccines covered by Part D will depend on your specific plan. You may pay a copay or coinsurance, but it will depend on your plan and the provider.

    The location where you get vaccinated may also affect your cost. For example, your costs may be lower if you get a vaccine at a pharmacy versus in a doctors office.

    Also Check: Can Shingles Vaccine And Pneumonia Vaccine Be Given Together

    Who Is In Danger Of Getting Shingles

    Anybody that has suffered from chickenpox, including children, is susceptible to shingles. Shingles, on the other hand, are most prevalent in people over the age of 50. Shingles are much more likely to happen as people age. People that have medical disorders that impair the immune systems function, such as tumors, leukemia, lymphoma, and human immunodeficiency virus infections, or that take medications that weaken the immune system, such as steroids and medicines administered during organ transplantation, are more likely to develop shingles.

    Does Medicare Cover The Shingles Vaccine

    Morning Rounds: New Shingles Vaccine

    En español | Unlike some common vaccines, like those for the flu, hepatitis B and pneumonia, shingles shots are not covered under Medicare Part B, the component of original Medicare that includes doctor visits and outpatient services. Part A, which deals with hospital costs, doesnt cover shingles shots either.

    Medicare coverage for Shingrix and Zostavax, the two commercially available shingles vaccines, is provided only if you are enrolled in a stand-alone Part D drug plan or a Medicare Advantage plan that includes Part D drug coverage.

    Medicare requires Part D plans to cover the shingles vaccine, so if youre enrolled in Part D, you shouldnt have difficulty obtaining the shot. Most require a copayment, which can vary widely from plan to plan.

    And if you havent yet met your plans deductible for the year, youll likely pay the full price. For Shingrix, the newer vaccine, that averages around $190, according to GoodRx, a website and app that tracks prescription prices.

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    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.

    What Are The Complications Of Shingles

    The most common and lasting complication of shingles is nerve pain, whats called postherpetic neuralgia , which can last for months or even years, long after the rash has cleared up. According to the CDC, between 10% and 18% of people whove had shingles will develop PHN.

    PHN is a stabbing or throbbing pain or weakness where the shingles rash had been. The risk increases with age and the pain lasts longer and is more severe than in younger people.8

    In rare cases, shingles can develop into pneumonia, hearing problems, blindness and brain inflammation.9 Only 1% to 4% of people with shingles are hospitalized for complications, though these are typically older adults and people whose immune systems are weak or suppressed, and fewer than 100 people die from shingles each year.10

    Read Also: Can You Run A Fever With Shingles

    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

    How Do I Get Coverage For The Shingles Vaccine

    Does Medicare Pay For Shingles Shots?

    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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    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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