Thank progressive policy for the free flu shot


Thanks to a provision in the federal health care overhaul, this year’s flu shot might not cost a thing for many more Minnesotans.

As part of the push to reduce overall medical costs while improving quality, the federal government is forcing insurers to widen access to tested and proven forms of preventative care, which includes the flu vaccine among a long list of other wellness measures.

For all insurance plans beginning after September 23rd, cost sharing has been eliminated for recommended preventive care (all coinsurance, deductibles, and co-payments). Medicare beneficiaries will be eligible for a wider array of free preventative care in 2011. Most other insurance plans must offer preventive care benefits on or after the next policy renewal, typically beginning in October or November.

Health officials say they’re better prepared this year for flu shot demand. Last year’s H1N1 pandemic caused a shortage in that vaccination’s supply. The vaccination available for 2010-2011 combines H1N1 with influenza A and influenza B, and will be widely available, according to a recent U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimation. Manufacturers expect to produce 160 million to 165 million total doses for the upcoming season.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends everyone older than 6 months, but especially children and those over 65, receive a vaccination, which is administered as either a nasal spray or shot.

Despite its benefits, out-of-pocket costs kept most people from getting this type of vaccine, creating a bigger health problem. Reducing flu incidences keeps people from missing work, school and other vital duties. While conservative public policy dictates government not interfere with the private market, this is a great example of government forcing health insurance companies to play their role in helping prevent a public health issue from ballooning into a crisis. It further proves government regulations advancing smart public policy benefit all of us, including private enterprise.