*a copy of this letter was also sent to the House of Representatives
July 16, 2020
|The Honorable Mazie Hirono
713 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington DC 20510
The Honorable Shelley Moore Capito
The Honorable Sheldon Whitehouse
Dear Senators Hirono, Capito and Whitehouse:
The National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare (NCPSSM), on behalf of our millions of members and supporters, endorses S. 1872, the Protecting Seniors Through Immunization Act of 2019. We appreciate your leadership in addressing drug pricing and ensuring that older Americans have access to critical shingles immunizations.
Roughly 1 in 3 Americans will get shingles in their lifetime, with older people being more likely to contract it and experience painful, long-lasting complications.[i] Right now, Medicare does not provide comprehensive coverage for shingles vaccines. Medicare Part B does not cover the shingles vaccine at all[ii], and Part D (covering about 70% of beneficiaries) only offers the vaccine with cost-sharing, which varies widely from plan to plan.[iii] Those who either don’t have Part D or haven’t met their Part D deductible may be stuck paying full price of about $280 per 2-dose course.[iv] For seniors on a fixed income, that can be an insurmountable cost for a critical vaccine.
The Protecting Seniors Through Immunization Act will expand Medicare to cover all adult vaccines recommended by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices without any cost-sharing for Part D.[v] This would immediately apply to shingles and Tdap vaccines, making them accessible for the 45 million and growing older Americans with Part D plans. It would also apply to new vaccines as they are approved, ensuring that the legislation continues to meet the changing needs of older Americans. Congress ensured that insurance plans in the ACA marketplace cover the shingles vaccine without cost-sharing.[vi] Now it is time to do the same for Medicare beneficiaries through this bill.
The National Committee greatly appreciates your advocacy for affordable medicine for aging Americans. This legislation will improve Medicare beneficiaries access the shingles vaccine and other crucial immunizations moving forward. We will work with you to ensure that S. 1872 is enacted.
President and CEO
[iv] https://khn.org/news/adults-skipping-vaccines-may-miss-out-on-effective-new-shingles-shot/. NOTE: This source says $280 per 2-shot course, while AARP article says GoodRx estimated it at $190 but unclear if that’s for 2-shot dose or single. Defaulted to Kaiser bc it provided source.
[v] There are a few vaccines that people get without cost sharing under part B, but this bill does not add shingles or others to that Part B list. Instead, the language about part B merely says the new Part D benefit is analogous to the Part B treatment for those vaccines.