Spanberger Wants Free COVID-19 Vaccines for Medicare Beneficiaries

October 21, 2020 by Reece Nations
Rep. Abigail Spanberger (on right) staying COVID safe. (Photo via Facebook)

WASHINGTON – Rep. Abigail Spanberger, D-Va., introduced a bill in the House of Representatives with bipartisan support that would guarantee access to the future novel coronavirus vaccine at no cost to Medicare beneficiaries.

The bill, entitled the “Securing Affordable Vaccines Equally for Seniors Act,” would amend the CARES Act by clarifying its language to authorize Medicare to cover a COVID-19 vaccine authorized for emergency use without cost-sharing, according to a press release from Spanberger’s office. Reps. Dusty Johnson, R-N.D., Chrissy Houlahan, D-Pa., Brian Fitzpatrick, R-Pa., and Elissa Slotkin, D-Mich., are co-sponsoring the bill in the House. 

“South Dakota has seen firsthand how quickly this virus can impact on our seniors,” Johnson said in a statement. “Making sure that as many people as possible can receive a safe COVID-19 vaccine is critical, and our bill will ensure the vaccine is covered for South Dakota seniors.”

Although the CARES Act already requires Medicare to cover a coronavirus vaccine without any cost-sharing for the beneficiary, the pandemic’s urgency has made an Emergency Use Authorization under the Federal Food Drug and Cosmetic Act a more likely avenue for the vaccine to become widely available, according to Spanberger’s release. Officials at the Department of Health and Human Services raised concerns with lawmakers last month about a portion of the CARES Act’s language that might lead to traditional Medicare beneficiaries facing cost-sharing fees for the vaccine.

The bill was introduced in the House Oct. 16 and was referred to the House Ways and Means and Energy and Commerce committees, according to congress.gov.

“Seniors are the most vulnerable to COVID-19, and ensuring that older Americans have affordable, easy access to a vaccine must be a top priority,” Spanberger said in a statement. “This bill would correct a critical error in the CARES Act that could inadvertently force Medicare beneficiaries to pay out of pocket for a COVID-19 vaccine.”

Spanberger’s statement continued, “As multiple pharmaceutical companies conduct drug trials on potential vaccines and public health experts warn about a cold-weather resurgence of the coronavirus, correcting this error is an urgent need. Cost shouldn’t be a prohibitive barrier for any American looking to protect themselves with a vaccine, and I’m proud to work quickly – and on a bipartisan basis – to make sure seniors in Central Virginia and across the country can count on a free COVID-19 vaccine as soon as it is available.”

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