* 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
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 , Bio-Rad Laboratories
Inc , Abbott Laboratories and Johnson &
Johnson. (Reporting by Bill Berkrot, editing by Leslie