Will Medicare Pay For Shingles Vaccine?

Does Medicare cover shingles vaccine? Will my Medigap plan pay for Shingrix? Can I get the shot for free during my Medicare Annual Exam?

GA Medicare expert Bob Vineyard answers your immunization questions.

Does Medicare Pay for Shingles Vaccine
Will Medicare Pay for Shingles Vaccine?

What is Shingles?

Shingles is a painful, blistering skin rash caused by the varicella-zoster virus. The same virus that causes chicken pox is also responsible for shingles.

After having chicken pox, the virus can lay dormant in your body for years. The virus lives in your nervous system near your spinal cord.

According to Mayo Clinic:

The signs and symptoms of shingles usually affect only a small section of one side of your body. These signs and symptoms may include:

  • Pain, burning, numbness or tingling
  • Sensitivity to touch
  • A red rash that begins a few days after the pain
  • Fluid-filled blisters that break open and crust over
  • Itching
Will Medicare Pay for Shingrix?

What is the Shingles Vaccine and How Does it Work?

Most vaccines start with some form of the virus which is injected. The idea is your body will detect the intruder and generate anti-bodies to attack the virus.

Older vaccines such as Zostavax use a weakened form of the virus. Shingrix, approved in 2017, uses inactivated (dead) virus. Vaccines containing dead virus cells eliminates the risk of transmission.

Is Shingrix Better than Zostavax?

Currently there are only three approved shingles vaccines. Zostavax, Shingrix and Varivax.

Zostavax, approved in 2006, was the only vaccine for shingles for many years.

Shingrix gained approval as a vaccine in 2017 and is considered to be 97% effective in adults age 50 to 69. Whereas Zostavax has a 50% effectiveness rate.

Varivax was approved in 2018. It is similar in price and effectiveness to Shingrix.

All three named shingles vaccines are approved by Medicare and should be included in all Medicare Part D plans.

How Much Does the Vaccine Cost?

Cash prices for Shingrix are currently $150 per dose. You need two doses for maximum effectiveness. Your second does should be given at least 2 months but no more than 6 months following your first dose.

Zostavax is a single dose immunization with a cash price of $225.

The cash price for Varivax is $150 per dose. The manufacturer recommends two doses a month apart.

How Long Before I Need to be Vaccinated Again?

Shingles vaccinations should remain effective for several years before you need another vaccination.

You can get Shingrix at age 50, when your chance of having shingles rises. Studies have shown that its protection remains strong for at least 4 years, but researchers hope it will last much longer because the immune response is stronger. – WebMD

Is the Shingles Vaccine Covered by Medicare?

Medicare covers the shingles vaccine as one of its preventive benefits. But, unlike some other vaccines that are paid through Part B, the shingles vaccine is covered by Part D.

Have You Had Shingles?

If you have chicken pox as a child? If you did you have a one in three chance of getting shingles as an adult.

Two years ago during my annual Medicare wellness visit my doctor asked if I wanted to get the shingles vaccination. We discussed the pro’s and con’s. She wrote a prescription for Shingrix.

I had every intention of getting the shot but all the local pharmacy’s were out of stock. They had no idea when they would have it in stock.

Two months later I woke up with intense itching and moderate pain. It started near my kidney and radiated around my left side.

My wife looked at it and said I had the Shingles.

Welcome to old age.

This was a weekend and my regular doctor was not available. On Sunday I went to a nearby urgent care facility. The doctor confirmed I had shingles.

I was given a prescription for the generic form of Valtrex.

Valacyclovir (Valtrex) is an antiviral medicine. It is used to treat or prevent infections caused by certain kinds of viruses. Examples of these infections include herpes and shingles.This medicine will not cure herpes. It is more popular than comparable drugs. It is available in generic and brand versions. Generic valacyclovir is covered by most Medicare and insurance plans, but some pharmacy coupons or cash prices may be lower. –GoodRx

Using Part D the prescription would have cost nearly $50. Using the coupon and paying cash my cost was $9.

Pay Cash or Use Your Drug Plan?

If you use your Medicare Part D plan for generic drugs you will almost always pay more. Buying generics and paying cash will normally save money.

The approved Shingles vaccines are all brand names. There are no generics. But you may still save money using coupons or drug assistance programs. Check the Medicare site for Patient Assistance Programs.

Do you have Medicare questions? Call or email.

#ShinglesVaccine #Shingrix #GAMedicareExpert

Medicare Part D is Confusing

Medicare Part D is confusing to me. Why is that? What makes it so hard to understand? What is the donut hole? I thought it was going away. What’s wrong with picking the plan with the lowest premium . . . as long as it doesn’t have a deductible? And why do some plans have a deductible? How does it work? Do I pay the deductible BEFORE I have copay’s?

Medicare Part D is Confusing

Can anyone explain how Medicare drug plans work?

GA Medicare expert Bob Vineyard can help.

Why is Part D so Confusing?

Why is Medicare Part D so confusing. The Medicare drug coverage is designed by folks in Congress who will never use the plan. Part D is administered by insurance carriers.

What could possibly go wrong?

When you search for the phrase “Medicare Part D confusing” there are 107 million results. Congratulations! You are not the only one who is confused by Medicare drug plans.

Medicare Part D is Confusing

What if I Can’t Afford My Drugs?

Medicare Part D (Medicare prescription drug coverage) helps cover the cost of prescription drugs. If you have limited resources and income you may be able to get Extra Help. Monthly premiums, annual deductibles, and prescription co-payments — related to a Medicare prescription drug plan.

To qualify for Extra Help you must meet the resources and income requirement. You must also live in the United States.

In some cases you might qualify for a PAP (Patient Assistance Program).

Yes, Medicare Part D is confusing but there is plenty of help. You just need to know who to ask. Consider the folks at Georgia Cares as an example.

Medicare Late Enrollment Penalties

Did you know you can be penalized for failure to enroll in a Medicare drug plan on a timely basis?

The late enrollment penalty is an amount added to your Medicare Part D monthly premium.

You may owe a late enrollment penalty if you lack creditable coverage for 63 days or more after your Initial Enrollment Period is over, you go without:

  • Creditable drug coverage
  • Medicare Part D plan
  • Medicare Advantage plan that includes drug coverage
  • Other coverage such as employer group health plan

Also the LEP depends on how long you went without creditable coverage.

Your penalty is determined by multiplying 1% of the “national base beneficiary premium” ($33.19 in 2019) times the number of full, uncovered months you didn’t have Part D or creditable coverage. The monthly premium is rounded to the nearest $.10 and added to your monthly Part D premium.

The penalty you will pay is based on a formula so it could increase from year to year. It is also payable for life.

Medicare Part D is confusing. GA Medicare expert Bob Vineyard can help.

Part D Deductible

The majority of Medicare drug plans include a deductible. In most cases the deductible applies to tier 3 or higher drugs. The deductible can also be avoided by using mail order or filling your med’s at a preferred pharmacy.

Most people do not understand how the deductible works so they focus on plans without a deductible.

Many agents also do the same. Rather than explaining how a Part D deductible works they only sell plans without a deductible.

In most cases no deductible plans have higher premiums AND higher copay’s.

If you want to learn more about Medicare Part D plan deductibles, this video will help.

Using the Medicare Drug Plan Finder

Why is Medicare Part D confusing? If it was easy you wouldn’t need me.

Pick a Drug Plan

Pick a drug plan, Medicare 101. Finding the RIGHT Part D plan is the most challenging part of Medicare. Experienced agents often get it wrong.

Medicare 101 - Picking a drug plan

Medicare Part D has a lot of moving parts. Formulary’s. Deductibles. Copay’s. Coinsurance. Preferred pharmacy’s. Brand name drugs. Generics. Which drugs are less expensive if you pay CASH.

It usually takes me anywhere from 5 to 20 minutes to run a drug report. Add another 10 to 30 minutes to explain to my Medigap client how to properly use the plan.

Very few people, including agents, understand drug plan deductibles.

Choosing Part D Isn’t Easy

Many think choosing a Part D plan is simple. Look for the plan that does not have a deductible and pick the one with the lowest premium.

That is the WRONG way to pick a drug plan . . . unless you enjoy OVERPAYING for your drug coverage.

Whether you pick a drug plan or you allow someone to help , at least make sure you get it right.

Do you want to DIY? Here is where you start.

Let me know how this works for you.

I have been running Medicare drug plan reports since 2010. The first few years I had no idea what I was doing. I made mistakes but fortunately they weren’t costly.

Showing clients how their copay changed once the plan deductible was satisfied was impossible. A few years ago Medicare reworked their software so now they can see month to month how their OOP changes.

When you use these new reports it is very obvious why a deductible plan produces lower OOP costs.

Why is Medicare Part D so Confusing?

Seniors often buy the wrong drug plan and spend too much on their prescription plan. Seniors on Medicare spend an average of $263 per month on prescription medications.

Lower your medication bill by only using your drug card when necessary. The right drug plan will save a lot on brand names but you will almost always pay MORE for generics.

Consider paying cash or using GoodRx instead for maximum savings. Also pick a drug plan that has a deductible.

This report compares a $17 plan with a deductible vs a $79 plan with no deductible. Not only is the premium for the no deductible plan considerably higher but so are the copay’s.

This is not an aberration. No deductible drug plans are more difficult to find. Also the premiums AND copay’s are noticeably higher than plans with a deductible.

Why not let my Pharmacist Help me Pick a Plan?

Your druggist probably has no idea how to run a Medicare drug plan report. Even if they do know how, they will not have the time. He or she will simply recommend a plan they see most often.

That means you may not know how much you could have saved compared to the other 2019 Medicare Part D plans.

Have you bought something recommended by a friend then later discovered you PAID TOO MUCH?

Sometimes you can return the item for a refund.

Medicare drug plans don’t work that way.

Your copay can range dramatically from one plan to the next. Copay’s are even further impacted by using the wrong pharmacy.

Last year I ran a report for a client. Had he kept his existing plan and pharmacy his total annual out of pocket (premiums + copay’s) would have been $13,000. By switching plans AND pharmacy’s he cut his OOP to $6,000.

You Can Pick Your Own Drug Plan

Some folks don’t want help with Part D. They have done it for their parents or other relatives. The plan they found worked so no need to make a change.

As one who runs hundreds of Medicare Part D reports every year I can tell you this. Picking a drug plan is not easy.

Sometimes I will run the report several times to find the lowest possible combination of premiums and copay’s.

Most folks who take the DIY approach only run the report once.

I tell my clients to run their own report, then let me generate a report. Almost without exception my total out of pocket is less.

This is all about saving money by picking the best drug plan. And that is the way it should be.

Am I Required to Buy a Medicare Drug Plan?

Am I required to buy a Medicare drug plan? What if I don’t take drugs? Can I wait until I need a plan? GA Medicare expert Bob Vineyard explains.

Is Medicare Part D required by law? What is the best 2019 drug plan? Is there a penalty if I DON’T buy a prescription plan? Is Part D optional?

required to buy medicare drug plan
Required to Buy a Medicare Drug Plan?

Medicare Part D

I don’t take any prescription drugs. Why must I buy something I don’t need or want?

You are not REQUIRED to buy a prescription Medicare drug plan. But if you don’t enroll in a plan when first eligible you will pay a penalty.

And the penalty is payable for life. It also increases every year.

So . . .

Am I Required to Buy a Medicare Drug Plan?

Where Can I Find the BEST Plan?

Finding the best Medicare drug plan isn’t easy. Part D is the most confusing part of Medicare. How do I find the RIGHT plan for me?

You could get lucky this time, but what about next year?

Is there a GUIDE to Medicare Prescription Drug Coverage? Yes, and it is only 88 pages . . .

The best drug plan is the one that is right for you. Do the following before enrolling.

  • Use the Medicare Drug Plan Finder
  • Enter all your current medications
  • Choose a pharmacy. Look for the one with the lowest copay’s.
  • Make sure all your drugs are on the formulary
  • Consider buying generics with cash or a discount card
  • Look for plans with a deductible
  • Enroll in a plan with the lowest total out of pocket cost

You can do all this by yourself.

Or you can ask a Medicare expert to help. I am always willing to help my Medigap clients. If you are not a client, please don’t ask. It’s not personal, it’s just business.

Why is Medicare Confusing?

Seniors often buy the wrong drug plan and spend too much on their prescription plan. Seniors on Medicare spend an average of $263 per month on prescription medications.

Lower your medication bill by only using your drug card when necessary. The right drug plan will save a lot on brand names but you will almost always pay MORE for generics.

Consider paying cash or using GoodRx instead for maximum savings. Also look for a Medicare drug plan with a deductible. https://youtu.be/LaA9NnFeBXI

You have questions? I have answers. Call or email.

#MedicareDrugPlan #MedicarePartD #GAMedicareExpert

Free and Low Cost Prescription Drugs

Medicare resource for free and low cost prescription drugs. Are you 65 or older and can’t afford your medications? Paying too much for generics? Medicare’s annual election period, commonly referred to as open enrollment, is the only time of year when anyone can change their Medicare Part D plan.How to find free and low cost prescription drugs

Many seniors mistakenly believe Medicare open enrollment allows them to change their Medicare supplement plan without answering health questions. The truth is, you can drop your existing Medigap plan and purchase a new one any time of year, as long as you can pass medical underwriting.

The cost of prescription medications has steadily risen since 2006 when Medicare Part D was created. Some generic drugs that were once considered affordable are now out of reach. Many of these medications now reach $200 or more.

Help is on the way.

 

How to Find Low Cost or Free Prescription Drugs

Finding low cost or free medications can be challenging if you don’t know where to look.

For many, an even bigger challenge is finding a Medicare prescription drug plan that is right for you. Fortunately there are many articles and sites on the internet providing a treasure trove of information, if you only knew where to look.

One such site is VeryWell, a health and information site owned by the folks at About.com. Earlier this year they published an article titled Stores that Offer Free and Low Cost Prescription Drugs.

We found the page while searching for one of our Medicare clients that was having trouble paying for her medications. She has Part D, but that was not enough. VeryWell’s article listed national and regional chain stores where you can save a lot of money on prescription drugs. Here is a partial list.

  • Costco
  • Kroger
  • Publix
  • Walmart
  • Sam’s

Warehouse clubs like Costco and Sam’s allow anyone to purchase prescription drugs even if they are not members. The hope is visitors will see other things where they can save money and will purchase a membership.

Costco also has a branded Visa card with an annual cash back reward for purchases at Costco including gasoline. The card can be used anywhere so your annual “dividend” can multiply with almost every purchase.

 

Rising Medicare Supplement Rates

Many retirees on a fixed income are also finding their Medigap premiums rising to the point where budgets are squeezed. Georgia Medicare plans offers a free, no obligation way to shop and compare Georgia Medigap rates in the comfort of your home.

Using our search engine you can compare about 30 popular plans, compare benefits and rates side by side.

We also offer a more comprehensive research report showing over 200 Georgia Medicare supplement plans and rates.

Your information is never sold. There is never any charge for the report. We do hope to earn your business and believe many will appreciate our no pressure approach.

 

Even More Ways to Find Low Cost Drugs

For over 20 years we have shown our clients how to save money on prescription drugs. Many drug discount plans are worthless and often you will pay a higher price than you normally would by just paying cash.

GoodRx is an exception to the rule.

Last year I needed to refill a prescription for Clobetasol to tame the itch of eczema. A tube normally lasts about 18 months and it normally is less than $20.

However I was shocked to learn the price with my Part D drug plan was going to be $92.

I left the store without taking my prescription with me. By using the GoodRx drug finder I was able to purchase the cream at a competing pharmacy for only $27!

Another resource is Blue Sky Drugs, a reputable Canadian pharmacy. Current pricing for Clobetasol is even lower than GoodRx.

 

How to Find Inexpensive Prescription Medications

Many people who live in rural areas may only have a few places where they can fill their presciptions. The folks at NeedyMeds offer a wealth of information when searching for free and low cost prescription drugs. They also have PAP’s (patient assistant programs) for many of the newer, high priced brand names.

The NeedyMeds $4 Prescription Drug Finder lists savings plans in alphabetical order by pharmacy name.

Some places, such as Publix grocery stores, offer FREE prescription medications.

Below is a partial list of free and low cost prescription drug resources. Grocery chains

  • Publix
  • Kroger
  • Winn Dixie

Many national drug stores have their own promotional plans for saving money on generic drugs.

  • CVS / Target
  • Rite Aid
  • Walgreens

Another resource for locating low cost prescription drugs in the US and Canada is Pharmacy Checker. Enter the name of your medication in the box and start the search.

If you need or want to save money on your medications (who doesn’t?) there are plenty of ways to lower your costs.

Our FREE annual review during Medicare open enrollment saves our clients hundreds or even thousands of dollars vs. their current drug plan. Two of our Medicare supplement clients will save over $4,000 next year by switching Part D plans and pharmacy’s.

We can’t guarantee you will save that much but many times the drug plan savings alone is enough to cover the cost of your Medicare supplement premium.

Need to save money on prescription drugs? Ask us. We can help.

 

#FreeLowCostPrescriptionDrugs #MedicareSupplementRates  #MedicarePartD  #MedicareOpenEnrollment