Capito, Daines seek availability of all vaccines for Medicare patients

U.S. Sens. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) and Steve Daines (R-MT) last week led a bipartisan group of their colleagues in urging the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to make all recommended vaccines accessible to Medicare beneficiaries.

“Now is the time to empower vulnerable elderly and disabled Medicare beneficiaries with the tools they need to stay healthy and out of the healthcare system,” wrote the senators in an Aug. 13 letter sent to CMS Administrator Seema Verma. “Immunizations are one of the most reliable and efficient forms of prevention that we know save lives and billions in avoidable healthcare costs.”

The senators noted in their letter that older adults and people with chronic conditions, such as heart disease, diabetes and lung disease, are particularly vulnerable to serious illness and complications from vaccine-preventable diseases.

“Yet, Medicare coverage design for vaccines for these populations does not encourage access to this proven and cost-effective form of prevention,” the lawmakers wrote.

Currently, immunization coverage for Medicare beneficiaries is segmented between Medicare Part B, which covers vaccinations against influenza, pneumococcal and hepatitis B for at-risk patients, and Medicare Part D, which covers all other commercially available vaccines, according to their letter.

While beneficiaries receive Part B-covered vaccines with no cost-sharing, Part D vaccines are typically subject to cost-sharing requirements, which “discourage immunization among elderly, disabled and chronically ill populations who account for a disproportionate percentage of the morbidity and mortality from vaccine-preventable conditions,” wrote the senators.

“We encourage CMS to work with Part D sponsors to offer either a $0 vaccine tier, or to place vaccines on a formulary tier with low cost-sharing,” they wrote.

Among the 10 other senators who joined Sens. Capito and Daines in signing the letter were U.S. Sens. Thom Tillis (R-NC), Pat Roberts (R-KS), and Mazie Hirono (D-HI).