Medicare may soon cover STD testing and treatment

U.S. health officials are considering offering coverage for STD testing and treatment under Medicare. The health insurance program is considering adding preventative care through STD exams in addition to HIV tests which are already covered by Medicare. If agreed upon, the change would take place in August 2011.

The change was proposed after a survey showed that many elderly Americans remain sexually active. According to the Center for Disease Control, the rate of STDs in men over the age of 40 increased by 50 percent between 1996 and 2008. Reuters reports that nearly 39 million people over the age of 65 and 7.6 million disabled people are covered under Medicare.

According to a report in Reuters in February, Medicare is considering providing testing for “chlamydial infection for sexually active or pregnant women aged 24 and younger and for older, sexually active or pregnant women at higher risk, gonorrhea infection in all sexually active or pregnant women if they are at increased risk, hepatitis B virus infection in pregnant women, syphilis infection for all those at increased risk, and high-intensity behavioral counseling to prevent infection for sexually active adolescents and for adults at greater risk.”

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) officials are expected to have a draft ready by August 24. Until then, CMS will conduct a “national coverage analysis” to determine if the screenings are needed.

Testing and treatment are available for some STDs at the Health and Wellness Center on campus. Through a partnership with a grant from the Lauderdale County Health Department, the Center is able to provide testing and treatment free of charge to UNA students.

“Chlamydia and gonorrhea are the most popular amongst college age groups. Chlamydia is seen most frequently and the two usually go together so that’s why we treat them for free as part of this program,” said Peggy Bergeron, a nurse at the Health and Wellness Center.

As Medicare considers adding STD testing to their coverage, students should make themselves aware of the services available to them if needed.

“There is no such thing as safe sex, only safer sex,” said Bergeron. “Condoms are good to use but they don’t protect against everything. If someone tests positive for an STI, we have forms for them to give their sexual partners to receive treatment as well.”