COVID-19 is the newest disease derived from a coronavirus. There have been multiple coronavirus diseases in the past, such as SARS-CoV and MERS-CoV. Like any new strains of viruses, COVID-19 has caused some panic around the world. With a total of nearly 1 million confirmed cases in the world, it’s easy to see why.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 80% of fatalities in the United States have been seniors who are 65 years or older. Also, out of all the confirmed senior cases, most patients have required hospitalization or admission to the ICU.
Seniors have a high risk of suffering severally from the coronavirus, so it’s important you get tested as soon as possible if you are feeling ill. Here’s how Medicare will cover the coronavirus test and treatment.
Medicare coverage for the coronavirus test
The test for coronavirus is a Real-Time Reverse Transcriptase Diagnostic Panel that tests respiratory specimens within four to six hours. At the time this article is being written, every state is currently offering tests. To get tested, you can contact your local health provider to see if they have tests in stock. If not, call your state health department or a local hospital. If you need to get tested for the coronavirus, Medicare will cover your test at 100%; you will have no cost-sharing expenses whatsoever.
If you test negative, be sure to practice social distancing still as you may still be infected. If you got tested early on in your illness, the test might not have been able to confirm any infection. Also, just because your tested negative for COVID-19, doesn’t mean you won’t get it later.
While some seniors who have tested positive for COVID-19 were able to care for themselves at home, most have been admitted into the hospital for observation and treatment. If you are admitted into the hospital, your stay will be covered by Medicare. Medicare will even cover an extended hospital stay to help you stay quarantined after you have recovered.
Currently, there is not a vaccine for COVID-19. However, Medicare has stated that when and if one is developed, all Medicare Part D plans will be required to cover it.
Telemedicine: How it was covered then vs. how it is covered now
Within recent years, Medicare has begun to cover telehealth doctor consultations. However, the requirements are strict. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, beneficiaries had to live in certain designated rural areas, the two-way video call had to take place within an assigned originating site, along with other criteria.
Now, Medicare is more lenient when covering telehealth services. Because seniors are being urged to stay within their homes, Medicare thought it would be wise to allow them to see their doctors via two-way telecommunication. This covered service helps both the patient and the doctor from being further exposed to the coronavirus.
If you have a doctor consultation via telecommunication, your doctor will bill Medicare as if it were a normal in-person appointment. However, Medicare has given healthcare providers the option of waiving any and all cost-sharing expenses for these types of appointments for the time being.
Safety precautions for seniors
Seniors, especially those who have preexisting health conditions, should stay home. While at home, try to disinfect your surfaces and belongings, such as countertops, remotes, door handles, and light switches. During this time of self-quarantining, be sure to keep up your personal relationships via phone call, text, Skype, or Facetime. It’s easy to feel lonely while you’re practically being forced to stay home.
If you start to experience any COVID-19 symptoms, such as a cough, shortness of breath, lightheadedness, or fever, be sure to contact your healthcare provider.
Danielle K. Roberts is the Vice President and co-founder at Boomer Benefits, where her team of experts help baby boomers with their Medicare decisions nationwide.