Blue Cross says it will cover HPV vaccine for males
Joins other major insurers in Bay State
Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts will start covering the human papilloma virus vaccine for males, the state’s largest insurer announced yesterday.
The other major insurers in the state pay for boys and young men to get the vaccine, which costs nearly $400 for the three shots required for full protection. The human papilloma virus, or HPV, causes cervical cancer in females and anal and throat cancers in both genders.
The Food and Drug Administration has approved the vaccine for teenage boys and men up to age 26, but the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says males “may get HPV vaccine,’’ but does not recommend it. The CDC does, however, recommend the vaccine for girls, and Blue Cross already covers the cost of the immunization for them. A CDC advisory committee is expected to review its stance on vaccinating males this fall.
“It is our understanding that the CDC is expected to recommend the use of this vaccine in males at its October meeting,’’ Blue Cross Blue Shield spokesman Jay McQuaide said in e-mail. “In anticipation of the CDC taking this expected step in October, we are beginning the process to cover the vaccine in males.’’
Gay rights advocates welcomed the news because gay men are at particular risk of contracting anal cancer through such infections.
“We’re thrilled that they have joined the Commonwealth’s other major insurers in providing coverage,’’ said Bennett Klein, AIDS law project director at Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, an organization that had recently urged Blue Cross Blue Shield to cover the vaccine in males and had their request turned down. “. . . Now it is up to patients to make sure they request this vaccine from their doctors.’’
Males with Blue Cross Blue Shield coverage must ask their doctors to submit a “request for individual consideration’’ to obtain coverage for the vaccine, and the insurer said the requests would be reviewed and routinely granted, with exceptions made for those with serious health conditions or who fall outside the recommended age range.
If the CDC decides to recommend HPV vaccine for boys and men in October, Blue Cross Blue Shield will adopt a permanent change in its policy that would allow coverage without the need for formal requests, the firm said.
“If the CDC does not recommend the use of the vaccine in males in October, then we will need to take a hard look at our decision to provide coverage and may reconsider,’’ McQuaide said.
Tufts Health Plan, Harvard Pilgrim, Neighborhood Health Plan, and MassHealth (which serves the state’s Medicaid patients) all provide coverage for boys and young men.
Deborah Kotz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.