U.S. Rep. Dusty Johnson, R-S.D., joined U.S. Rep. Abigail Spanberger, D-Va., Tuesday to push congressional leadership to pass their bipartisan Securing Affordable Vaccines Equally (SAVE) for Seniors Act to make sure seniors on traditional Medicare have access to a future COVID-19 vaccine without cost-sharing.

The representatives said the SAVE for Seniors Act would clarify that Medicare must cover – without cost-sharing – a COVID-19 vaccine authorized for emergency use, just as it would do for one licensed under the Public Health Service Act. By closing this loophole, the legislation ensures that seniors are not the only group who must pay out-of-pocket for a COVID-19 vaccine. Nearly all private insurers have committed to covering a COVID-19 vaccination for free, and Medicaid is required to do so at no cost.

“Seniors, individuals with disabilities, and those with chronic and complex health conditions are more at risk of suffering severe illness from COVID-19, and many of these individuals receive health coverage through Medicare,” Johnson and Spanberger said in a joint news release. “According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), eight out of 10 deaths reported in the U.S. from COVID-19 have been in adults 65 years of age or older. Residents and employees of long-term care facilities are especially vulnerable to the virus, and have accounted for 40% of deaths nationwide. On December 1st, the CDC announced that long-term care residents – many of whom are Medicare beneficiaries – will be the highest priority to receive the vaccine, with seniors and those with underlying conditions next on the list.”
“Congress must act to clarify that Medicare beneficiaries will not face out-of-pocket costs for a vaccine, regardless of its pathway to market. There is an abundance of research showing that cost sharing causes patients to delay or forgo care. Since both vaccine candidates require two doses and two visits to a provider, removing financial barriers is especially important to ensure individuals complete the full course of immunization,” they added.

Johnson and Spanberger introduced the SAVE for Seniors Act in October 2020. The bipartisan bill is cosponsored by U.S. Reps. Brian Fitzpatrick, R-Pa., Chrissy Houlahan, D-Pa., and Elissa Slotkin, D-Mich.