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Hirono, Capito, Whitehouse, Scott Introduce Bipartisan Bill to Increase Seniors’ Access to All CDC-Recommended Vaccines

WASHINGTON, D.C. –Today, Senators Mazie K. Hirono (D-Hawaii), Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), and Tim Scott (R-S.C.) introduced the Protecting Seniors Through Immunization Act of 2021, legislation that would provide Medicare beneficiaries access to all recommended vaccines at no additional cost, including shingles and tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis (Tdap). Immunization coverage currently varies by vaccine under Medicare. Some immunizations are covered under Medicare Part B without any out-of-pocket costs, while some vaccines covered under Medicare Part D require significant out-of-pocket costs, contributing to low uptake.

Prior to the pandemic, more than 50,000 adults in America died from vaccine-preventable diseases every year, and the United States spent more than $15 billion annually treating Medicare beneficiaries alone for vaccine-preventable diseases. 

“This year has reminded all of us about the importance of vaccinations and removing barriers like access and cost that prevent communities from getting vaccinated. Inability to pay should not prevent our kupuna from accessing preventative medicine, including vaccines. I urge the Senate to swiftly consider this bipartisan bill,” Senator Hirono said.

“Over the past months, we have all been reminded how important vaccines are, especially for our seniors,” Senator Capito said. “The Protecting Seniors Through Immunization Act will help to increase awareness about recommended vaccines and reduce the financial hurdles – including high-cost sharing, which prevents too many seniors from this cost-effective means of reducing preventable diseases and saving lives.”

“We should never force seniors on fixed incomes to choose between a life-saving vaccine and everything else they need,” said Senator Whitehouse. “This bill will help to cover burdensome costs, and spread the word about how important vaccination is.”

“As Ranking Member of the Senate Aging Committee, I know the importance of getting life-saving vaccines into the arms of our nation’s seniors,” said Ranking Member Scott.“Aging Americans have given their all to make our nation strong, and we must do everything we can to ensure they are taken care of. I look forward to working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to pass the Protecting Seniors Through Immunization Act and make recommended vaccines available to Medicare beneficiaries at no additional cost.”

“On behalf of more than 60 organizations representing patient, public health, providers, and vaccine innovators, the members of the Adult Vaccine Access Coalition (AVAC) are proud to endorse the Protecting Seniors Through Immunization Act of 2021 — and applaud the leadership of Senators Hirono, Capito, Whitehouse and Scott,” said Patricia D’Antonio, co-chair of AVAC. “By removing a cost barrier that has for too long prevented many Americans from accessing vital vaccines, this bill can truly save lives. We can’t wait another minute.” 

The Protecting Seniors Through Immunization Act would:

·       Reduce financial barriers by providing Medicare coverage of adult vaccines recommended by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices with no additional cost-sharing for beneficiaries. This would apply immediately to shingles and Tdap, and would apply to new vaccines as they are approved;

·       Improve patient education by including information about vaccine coverage in the Medicare & You Handbook; and

·       Require a study on vaccine uptake among Medicare beneficiaries.

Senators Hirono, Capito, Whitehouse, Scott, and eight of their Senate colleagues wrote a letter last year to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator, asking that CMS make vaccines for preventable diseases more accessible to Medicare beneficiaries.