With the coronavirus pandemic responsible for nearly 200,000 deaths and disrupting life across the United States, likely the only way for the country to return to normal is an effective vaccine. When a vaccine is available, Medicare will cover the cost.
Medicare covers vaccines in a variety of ways, depending on the vaccine. It may be through Medicare Part B, Medicare Part D, or a Medicare Advantage plan if you are enrolled in one. Part B covers vaccines only for certain illnesses: flu, pneumonia, and Hepatitis B (if you are at medium or high risk). Medicare covers 100 percent of the cost of these vaccines if you go to an approved provider; you do not have to pay a deductible or coinsurance.
Part B also covers vaccines if you are exposed to a dangerous virus or disease, such as rabies or tetanus. In those cases, you will have to pay a deductible and a 20 percent coinsurance.
Part D covers all other doctor-recommended vaccines, such as the shingles vaccine and the Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis) vaccine. How much the vaccine costs will depend on whether you go to a provider who is in-network for your Part D plan. If you get the vaccine in-network, you will have to pay the co-pay amount. If you get the vaccine out-of-network, you may have to pay for the entire vaccine and bill Medicare. Medicare will only pay for the approved cost, which may be less than what you paid.
If you have a Medicare Advantage plan that covers prescription drugs, it may cover these vaccines. The cost to you will vary, depending on the plan.
With regard to COVID-19, the CARES Act — the coronavirus relief bill Congress passed in March — provides that if a vaccine becomes available, Medicare is required to cover it under Part B with no cost sharing. Medicare Advantage plans are required to include the basic coverage offered by Medicare Parts A and B, so this coverage also applies to beneficiaries in Medicare Advantage plans.