Because Florida has a particularly large population of senior citizens, concerns surrounding the novel coronavirus are pertinent — especially as the Sunshine State’s case count continues to rise. Since March, the state has confirmed almost 675,000 cases of COVID-19. And while some people are flouting health guidelines (and government officials refuse to provide mandated protections), others are eager to protect themselves and others.
Aside from practicing social distancing and wearing masks, one of the best chances we have of reducing the spread of COVID-19 lies in an eventual vaccine. Despite President Trump’s claims that a vaccine will be ready prior to the election in November, experts have noted that an effective vaccine will not become available until at least 2021. But even then, it’s possible that the vaccine won’t become immediately accessible to all — and what’s more, Medicare might not even cover the cost.
Senior citizens seem to get the raw end of the deal when it comes to COVID-19. Not only are older people more vulnerable to the most serious complications associated with coronavirus, but scams targeting the elderly have run rampant throughout the pandemic. Internet crime, which uses the world wide web to communicate false or fraudulent representations to consumers, tends to spike during an economic downturn and during health crises — and from the start, promises of vaccines and cures for COVID were marketed to seniors in an attempt to gain access to identifying information.
But now there are vaccines currently in clinical trials, there’s reason to believe that we will eventually have some sort of immunization available. Although it’s important for people of all ages to receive dental checkups every six months to protect their well-being, yearly vaccinations can also do a lot of good in safeguarding one’s health. However, experts are skeptical about whether it’s realistic to hang all our hopes on a vaccine. It will likely take more than a few months to ensure the vaccine is both effective and safe. And then, of course, there are the costs involved.
For some, coronavirus vaccines could be available at no additional cost. According to an NPR report, Moderna — one of the companies that are attempting to develop a COVID-19 vaccine — has already made deals to sell the vaccine to other countries for anywhere from $32 to $37 per dose. Those who are covered by insurance may not be responsible for paying anything to get the vaccine. But for those who have no insurance coverage, it’s unclear as to what the out-of-pocket costs might be.
Keep in mind that even if you have insurance, your COVID-19 vaccine might not be covered. Although the U.S. government invested $35 billion in meaningful use incentive payments during the last decade — which were provided by Medicare and aimed at improving the widespread adoption of electronic health records — that doesn’t mean that Medicare will always have the patient’s best interests at heart. According to recent reports, Medicare might not cover the cost of the COVID-19 vaccine, as the program’s coverage doesn’t apply to drugs that are approved through emergency authorizations. And while the White House may end up asking Congress to amend language outlined in the CARES Act to ensure coverage, experts are concerned that this process might take too long to apply when the vaccine first becomes available.
When the Wall Street Journal initially broke the story, the publication reported that approximately 44 million people are currently on Medicare. But according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, those numbers actually exceed 60 million. With many of Florida’s residents falling into the age-65-and-older bracket, this could be a chief concern for those who are doing everything possible to stay safe.
Although options are being explored to ensure the vaccine would be made available at no cost to patients, even those covered by Medicare, there’s a lot that’s still unknown. Even if a theoretical vaccine is free of charge, there’s no evidence that any of the vaccinations currently in development will turn out to be effective in any capacity. For now, residents in Florida and across the country will need to continue taking precautions laid out by trusted health organizations in order to slow the spread.