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Medicare-Medicaid announces COVID-19 vaccine will be free for seniors

Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services logo
Sources: Media release from Cong. Aumua Amata's office

Washington, D.C. — Wednesday, Congresswoman Aumua Amata welcomed the announcement by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) that once a COVID-19 vaccine is approved, it will be available for free to those depending on Medicaid or Medicare.

“It’s important for seniors with services through these programs to know ahead of time that they won’t pay for this vaccine once it’s been ruled safe and ready by federal health agencies,” said Aumua Amata. “I appreciate this assurance by the administration and CMS Administrator Seema Verma, and I believe it is right in line with the spirit of Congressional intent through the CARES Act to provide thoroughly for testing and future vaccine availability. I think it’s possible this decision will be reinforced by more action by Congress providing additional relief measures after November 3.”

CMS announced direction that the nation’s seniors and most vulnerable are to have access to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) vaccine at no cost when it becomes available. The agency released a comprehensive plan taking proactive measures to remove regulatory barriers so as to ensure coverage and payment for the use of an eventual vaccine by millions of Americans.

Through an Interim Final Rule (IFR), CMS allows states to employ a broad range of strategies based on local needs to appropriately manage their Medicaid program costs. The guidance and flexibility provided to states in the IFC will help them maintain Medicaid beneficiary enrollment while receiving the temporary increase in federal funding in the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) passed by Congress this year.

In the announcement, CMS Administrator Seema Verma stated: “As Operation Warp Speed nears its goal of delivering the vaccine in record time, CMS is acting now to remove bureaucratic barriers while ensuring that states, providers and health plans have the information and direction they need to ensure broad vaccine access and coverage for all Americans.”

CMS is releasing toolkits for providers, states and insurers to help the health care system prepare to swiftly administer the vaccine as it becomes available. These resources are designed to increase the number of providers that can administer the vaccine, ensure adequate reimbursement for administering the vaccine in Medicare, and make it clear to private insurers and Medicaid programs their responsibility to cover the vaccine at no charge to beneficiaries. In addition, CMS is taking action to increase reimbursement for any new COVID-19 treatments that are approved or authorized by the FDA.