Medicare and the Coronavirus: What You Need to Know

medicare coronavirus

The COVID-19 outbreak is shaking the nation and the world. We know that it can be scary to contemplate, but as long as you follow your local and national government’s directions and remain socially distant, you should remain healthy and safe. While many states are ending their shelter in place orders, it’s still wise to practice social distancing. 

The top hygiene steps from medicare.gov include:

  • Wash your hands often and thoroughly. If you use hand sanitizer, make sure it is at least 60 percent alcohol.
  • Avoid touching high-touch surfaces such as countertops, door knobs, and handles.
  • Avoid touching your face, nose, and eyes.
  • Clean and disinfect your home, including door handles, light switches, faucets, sinks, and cell phones. 

COVID-19 in the U.S.

In the U.S., there have been a total of 1.42 million coronavirus cases with 84,763 deaths. Although COVID-19 symptoms are not extremely harsh in most cases and have even gone unnoticed, the virus can spread very quickly, thus creating the great need to wash hands regularly and maintain social distance from others.

Coping with social distancing can be hard, but taking some time to call a loved one, FaceTime with someone, or even play an online game with a friend will lift your spirits. This might also be a good time to write letters to people in your life. Many are taking this time to clean out and get to long-neglected tidying, fixing, and organizing tasks in their homes. 

COVID-19 and Medicare

Older people and those on Medicare are at higher risk for the coronavirus. Those who are immunocompromised and those with preexisting conditions, heart, lung, or kidney disease are at greater risk. That’s why it’s very important to take all precautions. Many states have now issued Shelter in Place orders, in which people are ordered to stay at home unless absolutely necessary. 

What Medicare covers for coronavirus

Medicare will cover all related lab tests for COVID-19 with no out-of pocket costs owed.

Your Medicare plan will also cover any needed hospitalizations, such as if you have to stay in the hospital under quarantine if you are diagnosed.

Medicare is also expanding its telehealth options (meaning seeing a doctor or other healthcare professional over the phone, smartphone, or computer) during the COVID-19 outbreak. When a vaccine becomes available, which could be up to a year from now, Medicare will cover such vaccine.

If you have a Medicare Advantage plan, it will cover all the services Medicare covers, plus possibly even more telehealth options.

Potential for scams

As always, guard your Medicare card, personal information, and social security number. If someone calls claiming to be from Medicare, simply hang up the phone. 

There are currently scams going around in which callers are offering coronavirus test kits or Senior Care Package that include hand sanitizer. Do not fall for these claims, and do not give out your Medicare number. Some will even offer a coronavirus vaccine, which does not exist. Medicare will NOT call you regarding the coronavirus. 

To report fraud, call the HHS inspector general’s hotline at 800-HHS-TIPS, or the National Center for Disaster Fraud hotline at 866-720-5721.

Coverage changes during coronavirus

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services have authorized Medicare plans to make some leniencies during this time. 

For Part D prescription drug coverage, your plan can: 

  • Waive prescription refill limits.
  • Reimburse you for scripts refilled at an out-of-network pharmacy.
  • Relax restrictions on home or mail delivery of prescriptions.
  • Waive prior authorization requirements for any drugs used to treat COVID-19.

Check with your plan for specific actions they will take to make this time easier for you.

How to get tested

If you are feeling sick and have symptoms, including sore throat, cough, fever, shortness of breath, and loss of taste and smell, contact your primary care doctor to get tested. If you do have the virus, you should remain at home. All family members of those affected should also remain at home and not go into contact with the public. 

Due to a shortage of tests, not everyone is being tested. If you are high-risk or immunocompromised, if you have visited affected countries, and if you are experiencing obvious symptoms, you will most likely be tested. According to the CDC, final testing decisions are “at the discretion of state and local health departments and/or individual clinicians.”  

Additional information

Take note that all Social Security offices have been closed until further notice. To contact Social Security, visit their website, call your local Social Security office, or call 800-722-1213. Visit coronavirus.gov for the latest health information and answers to most frequently asked questions regarding the coronavirus, and keep up with us at Medicare World for the latest news. 

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