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Guest Column | Sharon Mayer
Rising health care costs are top of mind for seniors. Many of us are on fixed incomes and are struggling to afford our care. That’s why millions of people forgo critical vaccinations, including for shingles. Luckily, I was able to get the shot covered by Medicaid. But many aren’t able to afford this important, preventive measure. Thankfully, starting in January, seniors could save hundreds of dollars when getting vaccinated against this painful illness.
One in three people in the United States will develop shingles in their lifetime, with the risk increasing as you grow older. Symptoms of shingles include a painful rash, itching, fever, headache, chills, and nausea. It can also lead to serious complications such as long-term nerve pain, blindness, and brain inflammation. These complications are preventable with the vaccine.
Medicare-enrolled recipients may have to pay up to $324 — a huge burden for those of us on a fixed income who don’t have a lot to spare. Roughly half of U.S. adults report that they put off or skipped some type of care in the past year due to cost. The cost of the shingles vaccine has been a driving factor in keeping vaccination rates especially low for the Black and Latino communities.
Now, the shingles vaccine will be free for everyone on Medicare thanks to the Inflation Reduction Act. In September, President Joe Biden signed the Inflation Reduction Act into law to help seniors and working families get ahead. While it may be a lesser-known provision, making the shingles vaccine free is a game-changer for millions of Americans. Over 61 million Medicare beneficiaries will gain access to no-cost shingles vaccines.
The Inflation Reduction Act also broadened the requirements for Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program to cover more vaccines to keep children and families healthy. More accessible vaccinations will help low-income families stay healthy and reduce stark racial inequities in health care.
President Biden and congressional Democrats recognize the increasing cost of health care causes many people to forgo the crucial care they need. For too long, Big Pharma and insurance companies have forced millions of Americans to make tough decisions every day: choosing between paying the bills or affording the drugs they need to survive.
In addition to providing vaccines at no cost, the Inflation Reduction Act lowers premium costs for 13 million Americans who purchase coverage on the Affordable Care Act marketplaces and drives down prescription drug prices by giving Medicare the power to negotiate drug prices, limiting the cost of insulin to $35 a month for people on Medicare, and capping senior out-of-pocket prescription drug costs.
Congress delivered health care savings to the American people by reducing costs and combating inflation, saving seniors like me hundreds of dollars to be able to put toward other necessities like food and rent. This legislation is the biggest step toward equitable health care coverage since the ACA. Affordable health care is guaranteed for years to come for people like me thanks to the Inflation Reduction Act.
Sharon Mayer lives in Pella.
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