Once a COVID-19 vaccine is approved, the U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) will make it available to seniors free of charge.

CMS administrator Seema Verma announced this during this week’s HLTH 2020 virtual conference, according to Kaiser Morning Briefing. CMS is working to make the vaccine free for Medicaid and private policyholders as well.

“We just want to make sure that all of our rules make it clear to insurers that we want to make sure that every American has access to these vaccines,” Ms. Verma told conference members. “The government will pay the cost of the vaccines, so we want to make sure insurance companies and all programs across the country ensure that people have timely access and that costs are not an obstacle.”

Health care providers generally charge insurers the cost of giving government-purchased vaccines. According to HealthCareFinance News, access to COVID-19 treatments for Medicare and Medicaid recipients can take up to three years, Ms. Verma told the audience.

“We want to make sure our payment policies don’t get in the way of beneficiaries who have access to the latest treatments,” she said.

Beckers Hospital Review reported that CMS is also adding 11 new telehealth services that Medicare will reimburse for costs during the pandemic. The services are all cardiac care related and include cardiac rehabilitation, intensive cardiac rehabilitation with exercise, and pulmonary rehabilitation with exercise.

Since the pandemic began in March, CMS has relaxed regulations, allowing providers to bill 135 services that were previously non-reimbursed. These services include visits to emergency rooms and initial inpatient visits. The dismantling of these payment barriers is blamed for the enormous increase in the use of telemedicine by doctors and patients.

Robert Calandra is an award-winning journalist, author, and playwright. His work has been published in national and regional magazines and newspapers.

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