WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) hosted a news conference to discuss his new legislation to ensure more Americans can receive necessary vaccines, including any future COVID-19 vaccine, at no out-of-pocket cost. Brown’s Helping Adults Protect Immunity Act (HAPI) Act would create parity in vaccine coverage between traditional Medicaid and Medicaid expansion programs. The bill would also provide enhanced federal matching funds for states to better reach at-risk and vulnerable patient populations. Representative Darren Soto (D-FL-9) will introduce companion legislation in the House of Representatives.

“This legislation would help us ensure more Americans are able to get the vaccines they need with no out-of-pocket costs, and provide more federal matching funds for states like Ohio to better reach at-risk and vulnerable patients,” said Brown. “When some Americans aren’t able to get the vaccines they need it doesn’t just hurt them – it hurts the whole community. So we have to be ready to go from day one with the federal support needed when a vaccine is approved.”

Brown was joined on the call by Dr. Sarah Sams, MD, FAAFP. Dr. Sams is the Associate Director of the Grant Family Medicine Residency Program in Columbus. She is also a delegate to the Ohio Academy of Family Physicians (OAFP), which is the Ohio branch of the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP). AAFP has endorsed this bill along with Adult Vaccine Access Coalition (AVAC).

“Reducing cost barriers for vaccines is important for adults as well as children.  This bill will improve public health by decreasing preventable illnesses,” said Dr. Sams, MD FAAFP.

Adults need immunizations to protect them from contracting and spreading serious infectious diseases that can result in disability, missed work, medical bills, inability to care for family members, hospitalization, or even death. 

Currently those enrolled in traditional Medicaid face varying out-of-pocket costs and can be forced to pay for vaccines, while those enrolled in Medicaid through the expansion made possible by the Affordable Care Act (ACA) pay $0 in out-of-pocket costs for vaccines recommended by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP). This lack of consistency and the resulting barriers to access impede efforts to improve vaccination rates among at-risk populations. 

A future vaccine’s effectiveness will be determined in part by how many Ohioans get vaccinated, and the HAPI Act would also give states funding to enhance reimbursement rates to the health care providers who will be responsible for vaccinating many of the most at-risk and hardest-to-reach populations.