* Tests covered for those at increased risk
* Medicare participants who seek screening also covered
* Decision effective immediately
NEW YORK, Dec 8 (Reuters) - Americans enrolled in the U.S. government-run Medicare health insurance program will now be covered for tests that screen for HIV, The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), which oversees the program for the elderly and disabled, said on Tuesday.
The tests to detect the virus that causes AIDS will be covered for Medicare beneficiaries who are at increased risk for the infection, including pregnant women, CMS said, but it added that Medicare participants of any age who voluntarily request the service will also be covered.
CMS, which said the decision is effective immediately, was allowed to add to Medicare’s list of covered preventive services under a law passed last year.
“This decision by Medicare should help promote screening and save lives,” said Dr. Howard Koh of the U.S. Health and Human Services Department.
An estimated 1.1 million Americans are infected with the human immunodeficiency virus, or HIV, CMS said, although the vast majority are too young to be covered by Medicare at the time they become infected with the virus.
The new coverage could help makers of HIV screening equipment, such as OraSure Technologies Inc OSUR.O, Bio-Rad Laboratories Inc BIO.N, Abbott Laboratories ABT.N and Johnson & JohnsonJNJ.N. (Reporting by Bill Berkrot, editing by Leslie Gevirtz)
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