Medicare finalizing coverage policy for coronavirus vaccine

Fitness & Health:

A senior Trump administration official says Medicare will cover the yet-to-be approved coronavirus vaccine free for older people under a policy change expected to be announced soon

The coming announcement from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services aims to align the time-consuming process for securing Medicare coverage of a new vaccine, drug or treatment with the rapid campaign to have a coronavirus vaccine ready for initial distribution once it is ready, possibly as early as the end of the year.

It’s questionable under normal circumstances if Medicare can pay for a drug that receives emergency use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration, as expected for the eventual coronavirus vaccine. Emergency use designation is a step short of full approval.

Earlier this month, Medicare administrator Seema Verma said her agency was close to resolving the issue.

“I think we’ve figured out a path forward,” Verma said at the HLTH conference, a forum for innovators. “It was very clear that Congress wants to make sure that Medicare beneficiaries have this vaccine and that there isn’t any cost-sharing.”

“Stay tuned,” she added.

States have already begun submitting their plans for vaccine distribution to the federal government.

Initially, it’s expected vaccines will go to people in high-risk groups such as medical personnel, frontline workers and nursing home residents and staff. Older people are also high on the priority list because their risks of serious illness and death from the coronavirus — which has killed more than 225,000 people in the United States — are much higher. It could be well into next year before a vaccine is widely available.

Medicare’s impending announcement was first reported by Politico.

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