It's been more than six weeks since the threat of COVID-19 became evident on a widespread level, and life changed in an instant. But while many people today are grappling with issues like unemployment and slaughtered retirement accounts, seniors have a unique set of concerns on their hands: protecting their health and their finances simultaneously.
Understanding how Medicare is offering coverage for COVID-19 can help in both regards. With that in mind, here are some common questions that seniors have as they attempt to navigate the pandemic.
1. Will Medicare cover COVID-19 testing?
Testing for COVID-19 can still be a bit hard to come by, depending on where you live, but the good news is that Medicare Part B will pay for it. All Medicare Advantage plans are required to cover COVID-19 testing as well.
2. How much do Medicare enrollees pay to get tested?
Though getting tested for COVID-19 may be a stressful process, the good news is that if you're on Medicare, you won't pay a dime to get those results. Not only are you off the hook with regard to paying for your actual test, but you won't face a copay for seeing a doctor who can order one.
3. Will Medicare pay for COVID-19 treatment?
There's no standard treatment for COVID-19, though some patients with severe symptoms are being hospitalized. Medicare Part A generally covers inpatient hospital treatment, so if you're admitted to a hospital because of COVID-19, you'll be subject to your normal deductible under Part A, which is $1,408 per benefit period. Keep in mind that coinsurance won't kick in during your first 60 days of consecutive hospital care, but beyond that, you'll pay $352 per day until you reach the 90-day mark in the hospital. If you have supplemental insurance, your Medigap plan may pick up the tab for some of the out-of-pocket costs you incur in the course of getting hospital treatment.
4. Will Medicare cover a COVID-19 vaccine if one becomes available?
Health experts say a vaccine is at least 12 to 18 months out, but if one becomes available, it will be covered by Medicare Part B. Furthermore, you won't be subject to a copay for it.
5. Can Medicare enrollees order medication in bulk because of COVID-19?
Americans are advised to stock up on the medications they take regularly because of the ongoing crisis. If you're on Medicare, you may normally be limited to 30-day supplies, but under the CARES Act, both Part D and Advantage plans are required to provide up to a 90-day supply of covered medications to patients who request one.
6. How can Medicare enrollees get health advice safely?
Right now, older Americans are being advised to avoid the doctor for non-urgent matters. But you may still have a routine health concern you'd like addressed sooner rather than later. To this end, Medicare has ramped up its telehealth services, allowing you to receive care remotely. These online doctor visits are covered by Part B, which means they're generally subject to the $198 annual Part B deductible plus 20% coinsurance. However, some providers may be reducing or waiving cost sharing for telehealth participants because of the ongoing crisis.
7. Does Medicare cover mental health services?
Right now, a lot of seniors are having a hard time coping with the current situation. Many are feeling isolated in their homes, while others are feeling understandably anxious. Medicare does cover mental health services, and you may be able to meet with a professional remotely. You'll generally be subject to the aforementioned Part B deductible plus 20% coinsurance. Seniors who are struggling with mental health issues can also call the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration's Disaster Distress Helpline at 1-800-985-5990.
The COVID-19 crisis has been particularly hard on seniors. Knowing what to expect from Medicare could make a tough time just a bit easier on you.