NEXSTAR (WASHINGTON) – The Trump administration announced Wednesday a plan allowing millions of Americans on Medicare or Medicaid to receive a free COVID-19 vaccine once one is available.
Current policies at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) do not cover recipients’ out-of-pocket costs for vaccines that have received emergency use authorization (EUA), which allows unproven treatments to be used in an emergency like the pandemic.
The new regulations allow the programs to cover the cost now, and at least two vaccine developers have said they will apply for EUA before the end of the year.
“As soon as that vaccine is ready, we’re also ready to distribute the vaccine and pay providers to administer the vaccine,” said CMS Administrator Seema Verma. “We want to make it as convenient as possible.”
The cost to taxpayers is not clear right now, but Verma called it a “worthwhile investment.”
“Our seniors have paid into the Medicare program their entire lives, and they deserve access to this vaccine,” she said. “The president wants to make sure that they are prioritized, that they are at the front of the line.”
Congress and the White House tried to make the change on their own but realized legislation or an executive order could not change CMS regulations.
The issue hit the presidential campaign trail this week with both candidates speaking to seniors and lower-income Americans.
President Donald Trump continues to promise 100 million doses by the end of the year, while Democratic nominee Joe Biden continues to criticize the administration’s handling of the pandemic.
“We’re all set logistically,” Trump said. “Our military is going to deliver it. It’ll be done very quickly.”
“Donald Trump has waved the white flag, abandoned our families and surrendered to this virus,” Biden said.
When asked if a Trump loss would impact the new CMS plan, Verma said, “Not at all.”
Verma expects all Americans to have access to free coronavirus vaccines by March.
CMS is also changing its Medicare payment policies to make sure seniors have access to new COVID-19 therapeutics as soon as they receive FDA approval.