LANSING – Six leading organizations advocating for improved public health and patient care are asking Congress to protect Michigan’s most vulnerable residents by eliminating vaccine co-pays that seniors are required to pay through some Medicare coverage plans – but not others.

The “Protecting Seniors through Immunization Act” introduced in Congress this year would eliminate Medicare Part D vaccine co-pays for patients, bringing parity to cost-sharing coverage for all vaccines recommended for Medicare beneficiaries. Currently, CDC-approved immunizations such as pneumococcal disease vaccines, flu shots, and COVID-19 vaccines have no co-pay requirement for seniors covered under Medicare Part B.

However, vaccines for diseases such as Shingles, Tetanus, Diphtheria and Pertussis, along with all future vaccines, fall under coverage of Medicare Part D and can require out-of-pocket costs of up to $160 for seniors. The varying vaccine coverage creates confusion, and in some cases, financial obstacles to receiving critical vaccines for those on a fixed income.

That’s why the Michigan Academy of Family Physicians, Michigan Association of Osteopathic Family Physicians, Michigan Council of Nurse Practitioners, Michigan Osteopathic Association, Michigan State Medical Society and Michigan State Medical Society Alliance authored a letter [attached] to Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy asking for movement of the bills through Congress.

The letter states, in part: “This discrepancy causes confusion and results in many older adults walking away from getting one of these important vaccines. With adoption of the “Protecting Seniors through Immunization Act” these cost barriers will be eliminated and the goal of increasing vaccination rates among American adults, particularly in underserved, vulnerable communities, will be one step closer to reality.

Vaccines have never been more at the forefront of our minds than during the pandemic. These remaining barriers continue to discourage older adults from being fully protected from vaccine-preventable diseases. The Protecting Seniors through Immunization Act is a common-sense way to address this issue. We urge your support for this policy and call for swift action to advance this public health priority.”

The letter was also signed by 50 health care advocacy organizations across the nation.