Trump’s Plans For 150M COVID-19 Tests: Can Seniors Rely on Medicare?

As health experts warn of a surge of new coronavirus cases in the fall and winter, when the cold weather drives people indoors, aiding the virus’s spread, President Trump has announced his plan to distribute 150 million rapid COVID-19 tests to states by the end of the year, strongly urging governors to use them to help schools reopen. 

The Abbott tests

The Abbott tests, which are cheaper and faster than lab tests, return results in about 15 minutes and are already widely used in nursing homes under a program set up by the Trump administration. 

“In the old days when we just started this, you remember we’d go out and we’d have to find these massive laboratories with tremendously expensive equipment. Now we’re down to something that you’ll see that is really from a different planet,” said Trump. 

COVID-19 cases on the rise

Already, 32 states are seeing increases in COVID-19 cases, pushing the U.S. to an average of 43,000 new cases per day — a 23 percent increase from the average just two weeks ago, according to a New York Times tracker.

The increase in cases, mainly driven by states in the Midwest and Great Plains, is likely due to multiple factors, including college campuses reopening, large gatherings, the lifting of restrictions on businesses, and increased activity around Labor Day weekend.

Will testing save us?

More than 100 million COVID-19 tests have been completed in the U.S. since the start of the pandemic, according to the COVID Tracking Project.

The U.S. reported 1 million COVID-19 tests completed in a single day last week, a record high for the country, the COVID Tracking Project says.

Still, that falls below where some experts say the U.S. should be to successfully contain the virus. 

Medicare vaccine coverage still up in the air

It remains unclear if Medicare will cover the earlier releases of the COVID-19 vaccine. Only time will tell if legislation will come into effect to create the coverage many seniors need. 

This administration is committed to modernizing the Medicare program and delivering for our nation’s seniors to ensure access to a vaccine with no cost-sharing,” according to a statement provided to CNBC from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid in response to questions about when and how the agency planned to resolve the issue.

What’s next?

The FDA is expected to soon release strict guidelines for the accelerated process that essentially would mean emergency approval wouldn’t come until at least November if not later.

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