Shingles is such a benign name for this nasty, painful skin disease. If you have a strong stomach, Google “shingles” to see images of the unpleasant rashes that occur most anywhere on one’s body. In her position as activities director at a local nursing home, Hannah cringed at the debilitating pain and suffering from shingles in her elderly population.
Let me back up. Our primary care physician at Kittery Family Practice (Maine) suggested we get the new, improved two-shot series of shingles vaccinations. Six years ago we got the original shingles shot, which turned out to be only 50% effective. The new series ramps up the success rate to 90%. If two out of three ain’t bad (Meatloaf standard), I’m all in on nine out of ten!
So, in early October 2019 Hannah and I received the first round of our shingle shots administered by the pharmacist at the local Hannaford Supermarket and were surprised it cost $172 each. Okay, it’s an important vaccination so we pony up, thinking surely that covers both the first and second shot, which we must get in two to six months.
Nooooo. Today I have the second shot for another $124. As a couple nearly 72, we wondered if our Medicare covered shingles shots. That’s a big N-O. See Appendix A below for why not.
To updated you on shingles, here’s a brief description from the Mayo Clinic website. Click here for the full story.
Shingles is a viral infection that causes a painful rash…shingles can occur anywhere on your body. It is caused by the same virus that causes chickenpox. After you’ve had chickenpox, the virus lies inactive in nerve tissue near your spinal cord and brain. Years later, the virus may reactivate as shingles. If one is 60 or older, there is a significant increase in the risk of complications.
$296 each seems like a small price to pay to prevent such misery. And it is…
…for the upper middle class. Hannah and I can each pay for these injections without missing a beat, but…
…but what about those in the middle class, working class, let alone in the poorer half of Americans? The cost means many will just go without this preventive measure. I can only imagine that the cost of treating the disease in clinics and hospitals will be far more than $300 for shingles shots. Let alone the pain!
There’s got to be a better way to insure the health of the American public!
Appendix A for those on Medicare – The AARP United Health Care site states that unlike some common vaccines, like those for the flu, hepatitis B and pneumonia, shingles shots are not covered under Medicare Part B, the component of original Medicare that includes doctor visits and outpatient services. Part A, which deals with hospital costs, doesn’t cover shingles shots either.