Donna Shalala Introduces Senior Immunization Act

U.S. Rep. Donna Shalala, D-Fla., who served as secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) under President Bill Clinton, has brought out a proposal ending out-of-pocket costs for seniors getting vaccinated under Medicare Part D.

With the backing of U.S. Reps. Larry Bucshon, R-Ind., Ann Kuster, D-NH, and Phil Roe, R-Tenn., Shalala brought out the “Senior Immunization Act” last week.

“The importance of immunizations in managing preventable disease and improving general public health cannot be overstated,” said Shalala. “Too often, seniors wanting to be vaccinated can’t find the information they need or have trouble affording these essential, life-saving treatments. This is a common-sense bill that will help lower obstacles by expanding access to information and making vaccines more affordable for seniors.”

“Through the use of vaccines, modern medicine has enabled us to significantly improve health outcomes by preventing those who receive vaccines from becoming ill – or even dying – after getting a vaccine-preventable disease. However, the complexities of Medicare can be difficult to navigate, and financial barriers can stand in the way of seniors receiving vaccines. The result of seniors not receiving these vaccinations is preventable deaths, potentially significant costs to Medicare to treat a vaccine-preventable illness, and even long-term suffering from the effects of preventable diseases. This legislation helps ensure seniors can have access to affordable vaccines they need to live longer and healthier lives.” said Bucshon.

“As a physician, I know vaccines save lives. Removing cost barriers to vaccines will help ensure America’s seniors are better protected against preventable illnesses. I am proud to join my colleagues in introducing this important bill, and hope it can be signed into law,” said Roe.

“Vaccinations are a critical part of preventive care and seniors should not have to worry about being able to afford the immunizations they need,” said Kuster. “By making vaccinations more affordable for seniors, this legislation will improve the overall health and wellbeing of our communities, reduce health care spending, and save lives. I’m pleased to help introduce this commonsense measure and I will continue working to ensure Americans can access the health care they need.”

The bill “would reconcile Medicare Part D’s coverage of vaccines in terms of deductibles, coinsurance, coverage limits and annual out-of-pocket spending thresholds with those of Medicare Part B” and “update the vaccine information in the ‘Medicare and You’ Handbook as well as authorize a study to determine ways to increase adult vaccine rates.”

The bill was sent to the U.S. Energy and Commerce and the Ways and Means Committees last week. So far, there is no companion bill over in the U.S. Senate.


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