Once a COVID-19 vaccine is approved, the U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), will make it available to seniors at no cost.

CMS Administrator Seema Verma made the announcement during this week's virtual HLTH 2020 conference, according to Kaiser Morning Briefing. CMS is working to make the vaccine free for Medicaid and private insurance recipients as well.

“We also just want to make sure that all of our rules make it very clear to insurers that we want to make sure that every American can have access to these vaccines,” Ms. Verma told conference members. “The government’s going to pay for the costs of the vaccines, so we want to make sure insurance companies and all the programs across the country ensure that people have timely access, and that cost is no barrier.”

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

“We want to make sure that our payment policies aren’t standing in the way of beneficiaries having access to the latest treatments,” she said.

Becker’s Hospital Review reported that CMS is also adding 11 new telehealth services, the cost of which Medicare will reimburse during the pandemic. The services all relate to cardiac care and include cardiac rehab, intensive cardiac rehab with exercise, and pulmonary rehab with exercise.

Since the beginning of the pandemic in March, CMS has loosened regulations and allowed providers to bill for 135 services it previously would not reimburse for. Among those services are visits to emergency departments and initial inpatient visits. Lowering those payment barriers is credited for the huge increase in the use of telehealth by doctors and patients.

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