According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, last year’s influenza (flu) season’s overall deaths attributed to flu and pneumonia were the highest in nearly a decade, and people 65 years and older accounted for half of all flu-related hospitalizations. The flu season can begin as early as October, so as the 2013-2014 influenza season swiftly approaches, now is the time for providers to send reminders and schedule appointments for patients’ flu vaccinations.
Seniors and people with chronic health conditions are at a higher risk for serious complications from the flu, such as pneumonia, bronchitis, and sinus infections. Chronic health conditions that may put a patient at risk include:
- Chronic lung disease
- Heart disease
- Kidney disorders
- Liver disorders
- Weakened immune system due to disease or medication
To avoid complications it is critical for providers to recommend and offer the flu vaccination to Medicare beneficiaries ahead of the flu season.
Providers should also remember that Medicare Part B generally covers one influenza vaccination and administration each flu season for Medicare beneficiaries without co-pay or deductible.
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) offer resources that provide information on coverage and billing of the flu vaccine. For more information, visit the following links:
- CMS Medicare Learning Network® Preventive Services Educational Products and CMS Immunizations web pages.
- MLN Matters® Article #MM8433, “Influenza Vaccine Payment Allowances-Annual Update for 2013-2014 Season.”
- HealthMap Vaccine Finder is a free, online service where users can search for locations offering flu and other adult vaccines.