Coronavirus FAQs for Seniors

How does COVID-19 spread?

The virus is thought to spread mainly from person-to-person in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet), through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs, sneezes or talks. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs. Studies have proven that COVID-19 can be spread by people who are not showing symptoms, who are serving as a carrier only. 

How long can COVID-19 live on surfaces?

Can my pet contract COVID-19?

Dogs can contract certain types of coronaviruses, such as the canine respiratory coronavirus, but COVID-19 is not a health threat to dogs.

Two pet cats, one in Hong Kong and one in Belgium, have tested positive for COVID-19. Both of these cats lived in homes with COVID-19 positive owners.

Does Medicare cover testing for COVD-19?

Medicare Part B (Medical Insurance) covers a test to see if you have COVID-19. This test is covered when your doctor or other health care provider orders it. This means that Medicare beneficiaries pay nothing for this test.

Does Medicare cover treatment for COVID-19?

Currently there is no known treatment for COVID-19 beyond treating the symptoms of the disease. Patients who get seriously ill from the virus may need a variety of inpatient and outpatient services. Medicare covers inpatient hospital stays, skilled nursing facility (SNF) stays, some home health visits, and hospice care under Part A, and outpatient services, including physician visits, emergency ambulance transportation, and emergency room visits, under Part B. If an inpatient hospitalization is required for treatment of COVID-19, this treatment will be covered for Medicare beneficiaries.

When the vaccine for COVID-19 is approved, will it be covered by Medicare? 

Medicare Part B covers certain preventive vaccines, such as influenza, pneumococcal, and Hepatitis B, and these vaccines are not subject to Part B coinsurance and the deductible. Medicare Part B also covers vaccines related to medically necessary treatment. For traditional Medicare beneficiaries, the Part B deductible and 20 percent coinsurance would apply. Based on a provision in the CARES Act, if a vaccine becomes available for COVID-19, Medicare is required to cover this vaccine under Part B with no cost sharing for Medicare beneficiaries for the vaccine or its administration. 

Are there any special rules for Medicare coverage for skilled nursing facilities or nursing home residents related to COVID-19?

Medicare beneficiaries who need to be transferred as a result of the effect of a disaster or emergency like COVID-19, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) is waiving the requirement for a 3-day prior hospitalization to receive the coverage of a skilled nursing facility (SNF). For beneficiaries who may have recently exhausted their SNF benefits, the waiver from CMS still applies without first having to wait for a new benefit period.

Nursing home residents, who have Medicare coverage and who need inpatient hospital care, or other Part A, B, or D covered services related to testing and treatment of coronavirus disease, are entitled to those benefits in the same manner that community residents with Medicare are.

These new rules do not apply to assisted living facilities, which are regulated by states.

Should I be tested for COVID-19?

Your doctor will determine if you have signs and symptoms of COVID-19 and whether you should be tested. In the early stages of infection, it is possible the virus will not be detected. With a negative test result, it is safe to say that the symptoms the person is likely showing are being caused by a different illness. 

What is the test of COVID-19? 

The doctor will put on protective clothes, mask and face shield, and then collect samples. This involves swabbing the inside of the person’s nose with a skinny swab that is long enough to reach the nasopharynx, the upper part of the throat, behind the nose. It is a mildly uncomfortable process, but is the same test given for influenza and only takes a few seconds. 

The doctor then packages the samples according to guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and then the samples are shipped to a laboratory. Some hospitals, such as Johns Hopkins, have testing labs on site. The laboratory tests the specimens for the presence of the new coronavirus, which causes COVID-19. The doctor reports the test results to the patient and to the public health authorities if it is positive. It can take up to one week to get the result.

Once you receive your results you will need to remain in self-isolation until your symptoms resolve and you have been in isolation for a minimum of 14 days.  If your symptoms worsen during this time, or continue past the 14 days you, should contact your healthcare provider.

How can I protect myself from COVID-19?

Clean your hands often. Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds especially after you have been in a public place, or after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.

Avoid close contact with all people– sick or not. Remember that some people without symptoms may be able to spread the virus. Keeping distance from others is especially important for people who are at higher risk of getting very sick.

Wear a mask in public places. You could spread COVID-19 to others even if you do not feel sick. Everyone should wear any sort of cloth cover over their mouth when they have to go out in public like to the grocery store or to pick up other necessities. Cloth face coverings should not be placed on young children under age 2, anyone who has trouble breathing, or is unconscious, incapacitated or otherwise unable to remove the mask without assistance. Do NOT use a facemask meant for a healthcare worker. Continue to keep about 6 feet between yourself and others. A mask is not a substitute for social distancing.

Cover coughs and sneezes. If you are in a private setting and do not have on your cloth face covering, remember to always cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze or use the inside of your elbow. Immediately wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not readily available, clean your hands with a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.

Clean and disinfect daily. This includes tables, doorknobs, light switches, countertops, handles, desks, phones, keyboards, toilets, faucets, and sinks.

Should I use soap and water or a hand sanitizer to protect against COVID-19?

Handwashing is one of the best ways to protect yourself and your family from getting sick. Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after blowing your nose, coughing, sneezing, going to the bathroom, or before eating or preparing food. If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.

 

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