Effective Jan. 1, millions of seniors will save big on their health care costs thanks to the Inflation Reduction Act. Much of the coverage has been focused on reducing premium costs and empowering Medicare to negotiate drug prices, but two other key measures were also passed:

  • The shingles vaccine will be free for seniors
  • Medicare recipients will pay no more than $35 on insulin per month

These changes will be life-changing for many, particularly seniors, people of color, rural Americans, and people with disabilities.

Insulin 

Insulin will be capped at $35 a month for all Medicare Part D beneficiaries.On average, seniors with Medicare Part D who are not receiving subsidies pay an average of $572 every year for this life saving medication — an unthinkable sum for many on fixed incomes. 

People of color are disproportionately affected by diabetes when compared to their white counterparts with over 12% of Black adults and 11.8% of Hispanics being diagnosed with the disease. Black Americans also continue to be the hardest hit when it comes to affording their prescription drugs and paying medical bills.

In 2018, a new shingles vaccine, Shingrix, was approved in the United States. Shingrix is the preferred vaccine over Zostavax. You should get the Shingrix vaccine even if you have had shingles or had the Zostavax vaccine previously.

The $35 cap on insulin is not available to individuals who are not on Medicare. Republicans in the Senate helped block this broader cap.  

Shingles

Shingles is an illness caused by the varicella zoster virus, the same virus that causes chickenpox. Only people who have had chickenpox can get shingles. After a person recovers from chickenpox, the virus stays in the body and can reappear many years later to cause shingles.

Shingles is a painful skin rash, often with blisters. Before the rash develops, pain, itching, or tingling may occur in the area where the rash will develop. The rash usually occurs on one side of the face or body and lasts from two to four weeks. Besides pain, shingles can cause fever, headache, chills, and an upset stomach. Shingles complications include pain in the rash areas (postherpetic neuralgia) and eye complications. Rarely, pneumonia, hearing problems, blindness, brain inflammation, or death can occur.

Almost one out of every three people in the United States will develop shingles.Your risk of infection increases as you get older. About half of all cases occur in people 60 years old and older.

The best way to prevent shingles is to be vaccinated. The shingles vaccine is recommended for persons aged 50 years and older. Even people who have had shingles should receive the vaccine to help prevent future occurrences of the disease.

Several antiviral medications are available to shorten the length and severity of shingles. To be effective, the medicine must be started as soon as possible after the rash appears. Pain medicine may help relieve the pain caused by shingles. Wet compresses, calamine lotion, and colloidal oatmeal baths may help relieve some of the itching.