Does Medicare Cover the Flu Shot?
Medicare covers one free flu shot each flu season at no cost to you. You can receive a flu shot from any doctor or pharmacy that accepts Medicare. People who are 65 or older are encouraged to get the flu vaccine because seniors are more susceptible to the virus than younger adults.
- Written by Christian Simmons
Christian Simmons is a writer for RetireGuide and a member of the Association for Financial Counseling & Planning Education (AFCPE®). He covers Medicare and important retirement topics. Christian is a former winner of a Florida Society of News Editors journalism contest and has written professionally since 2016.Read More
- Edited BySavannah Hanson
Senior Financial Editor
Savannah Hanson is a professional writer and content editor with over 16 years of professional experience across multiple industries. She has ghostwritten for entrepreneurs and industry leaders and been published in mediums such as The Huffington Post, Southern Living and Interior Appeal Magazine.Read More
- Reviewed ByAflak Chowdhury
Aflak Chowdhury is a Medicare expert and independent insurance broker specializing in group health insurance. He has worked for major providers including Humana and Principal Financial Group and today works mainly in the small group market.Read More
- Published: March 25, 2021
- Updated: January 17, 2023
- 6 min read time
- This page features 7 Cited Research Articles
- Edited By
Medicare Coverage of Flu Shots
A flu shot can be administered by your doctor or a qualified health care professional, such as a pharmacist. If you have Original Medicare, you can receive a flu shot at the office of any doctor who accepts Medicare.
- One free flu shot per flu season.
- Additional flu shots if medically necessary.
- Two flu shots in a calendar year for two different flu seasons.
People who are 65 and older are at an increased risk of developing serious health complications from the flu.
There are several flu shot options available, although the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention does not recommend one type of flu vaccine over another.
Two flu vaccine types are designed specifically for people 65 and older: The high-dose flu vaccine and the adjuvanted flu vaccine. Both are meant to create a stronger immune response in older adults.
Your doctor or pharmacist can help you decide which shot is right for you.
Costs of Flu Shots Under Medicare
If you’re enrolled in Medicare, you can receive one free flu shot each flu season at no cost to you.
If you’re enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan, the shot is still free, but you may need to have it administered by a doctor or pharmacy inside your plan’s provider network.
Do Medicare Advantage Plans Cover Flu Shots?
Medicare Advantage plans cover flu shots since they must, at minimum, cover everything under Original Medicare.
Just like with Original Medicare, you will pay nothing for this and will be covered for a flu shot each flu season.
The one difference is that Medicare Advantage plans typically require you to receive care within a plan network. So, you may have to get your flu shot from a doctor or facility that is included in your plan instead of getting the shot from any doctor who accepts Medicare.
This also may affect whether you can get the flu shot at your local pharmacy if it is outside your network. If you have Medicare Advantage and you’re not sure where you can get a flu shot, you can check with your plan provider.
Are Flu Shots Free for Seniors?
Without insurance, flu shots are typically not free for seniors. If you don’t have Medicare or some other form of insurance and are planning to pay out-of-pocket, then your annual flu shot can cost you as much as $50 or more.
Medicare covers the entire cost of a flu shot, so shots are free if you have insurance.
If you don’t have insurance, there may be cheap options available near you. Check to see if there are any local resources, like health clinics or local pharmacies, that may be offering free or low-cost flu shots.
Can I Get a Free Flu Shot at Walgreens or CVS?
Pharmacies across the country administer thousands of flu shots every year.
Most pharmacies — including national chains such as CVS and Walgreens — can bill for the flu vaccine if they participate in Medicare or if they are included in your Medicare Advantage plan’s network.
Check the pharmacy’s website to see if online scheduling is available for flu shot appointments. If it is, you can pick a date, complete the paperwork and arrive to the pharmacy at your scheduled time.
It’s always smart to call your local pharmacy ahead of time to confirm that flu shots are available. This can save you a trip if the vaccine is out of stock.
Make sure to bring your red, white and blue Medicare card or your Medicare Advantage card with you to your appointment. Otherwise, you may be turned away because the pharmacy can’t bill Medicare for the flu shot without your information.
Why You Should Get a Flu Shot
Getting your annual flu shot is especially important if you’re 65 or older because seniors tend to get sicker from the flu compared to younger adults.
During a typical flu season, people 65 years and older account for 70% to 85% of flu-related deaths and more than half of flu-related hospitalizations, according to the CDC.
The CDC recommends people get a flu shot by the end of October. Getting a flu shot too early — such as in July or August — can reduce the vaccine’s effectiveness later in the flu season, particularly for older adults.
Flu symptoms often mirror those of COVID-19.
- Shortness of breath
- Sore throat
- Muscle aches
- Runny or stuffy nose
Getting the flu or COVID-19 can be serious but getting both can be deadly — especially for older Americans.
Medicare also covers the COVID-19 vaccine at no cost to you. You can get vaccinated for both COVID-19 and the flu — but not at the same time.
According to the CDC, COVID-19 vaccines should be given alone with at least 14 days either before or after you get any other vaccine, including the flu shot.
Flu shot side effects are typically temporary and mild.
- Pain, redness or swelling around the injection site
- Muscle aches
These symptoms usually clear up in one to three days.
Frequently Asked Questions About the Flu Shot
7 Cited Research Articles
- Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. (2022, October 5). Reduced Drug Prices, Enhanced Medicare Benefits Under the Inflation Reduction Act Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs). Retrieved from https://www.cms.gov/files/document/10522-external-faqs-about-inflation-reduction-act.pdf
- Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. (2022, September 19). Flu Shot. Retrieved from https://www.cms.gov/flu-provider
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2021, August 27). Fluzone High-Dose Seasonal Influenza Vaccine. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/flu/prevent/qa_fluzone.htm
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2021, February 18). Frequently Asked Influenza (Flu) Questions: 2020-2021 Season. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/flu/season/faq-flu-season-2020-2021.htm
- Omdahl, D. (2020, October 13). If You’re On Medicare, Here’s What You Should Know About The Flu Shot. Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/dianeomdahl/2020/10/13/if-youre-on-medicare-heres-what-you-should-know-about-the-flu-shot/?sh=1ded66f67ce5
- St. John, T.M. (2020, August 14). Medicare: Is the Flu Shot Covered? Retrieved from https://www.walgreens.com/rx-healthanswer/health/p2/a/900002/medicare-is-the-flu-shot-covered/2200227
- Medicare.gov. (n.d.). Flu shots. Retrieved from https://www.medicare.gov/coverage/flu-shots
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