CMS proposes expansion of beneficiary access to flu vaccine

Medicare beneficiaries seeking annual seasonal influenza vaccines could find the process easier in subsequent years under a new rule proposed by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) on Friday.

The proposed rule would expand beneficiaries' options on where they could receive flu shots during flu season, said CMS Administrator Donald Berwick, MD, in a statement. "The new requirements would make flu shots available in more of the healthcare facilities that Medicare beneficiaries are most likely to visit--including hospitals and rural health clinics," he said.

This proposed rule also would require many Medicare providers and suppliers to offer all patients an annual flu vaccination during flu season--unless medically contraindicated. The proposed requirement would extend to Medicare-certified:

  • Hospitals, including short-term acute care, psychiatric, rehabilitation, long-term care, children's, and cancer;
  • Critical access hospitals;
  • Rural health clinics;
  • Federally qualified health centers and;
  • End-stage renal disease (ESRD) facilities that offer dialysis services.

The proposed rule does allow providers and suppliers to develop and implement policies and procedures for offering a seasonal influenza vaccine--and a pandemic vaccine when the latter is needed. Providers would not be held accountable for failing to provide vaccines in instance in which the product is unavailable or limited.

CMS will accept public comments on the proposed rule until July 5, before the final rule will be published.

For more information:
- see the CMS release
- view the MedPage Today article

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