As the COVID-19 pandemic rapidly spread throughout the United States, seniors proved to be at a high risk for serious illness.
In response, Medicare acted quickly to enhance its coverage and services while loosening some rules.
The following are excerpts from a COVID-19 guide on the official Medicare website. At this stage in the pandemic, the most important thing to know is Medicare covers COVID-19 vaccines.
In some cases, deductibles, co-pays, or co-insurances may apply, but Medicare covers many COVID-related needs, including:
- COVID-19 vaccines
- Lab tests for COVID-19
- FDA-authorized COVID-19 antibody (or “serology”) tests
- All medically necessary hospitalizations
Note: If you have a Medicare Advantage Plan, you have access to these same benefits.
More alternatives to office visits
During the pandemic, Medicare has expanded its coverage of telehealth services, from virtual doctor visits to a wider range of communication tools accessible from any Internet-enabled device. Here are a few examples:
- Virtual check-ins and e-visits. Communicate with your health-care providers from anywhere.
- Remote patient monitoring (RPM) so your doctor can check on you.
- Audio-only phone communication with practitioners for those unable or unwilling to access interactive audio-video technology.
“The whole field of telehealth is really growing during these times as people remain cautious about visiting places in person,” said Tom Woodruff, Medicare Specialist for SELCO Insurance Services. “This service works for medical concerns as well as talking to a mental health professional. Advantage Plans also have a 24/7 nurse line available at no cost.”
Coping with stress
Stress levels can be heightened during a crisis. Medicare offers a few suggestions on how you can cope:
- Take a break from the pandemic. Constant news about the health crisis can be upsetting.
- Take care of yourself. Eat well, exercise regularly, and get ample sleep.
- Turn your focus to activities and people you enjoy.
How else can Medicare help?
Medicare has taken additional steps in response to the health crisis, including:
- Medicare Advantage Plans and Prescription Plans potentially waiving or relaxing prior authorization requirements.
- Hospitals providing services in other healthcare facilities and sites that aren’t currently considered part of a healthcare facility.
- Waiving certain requirements for skilled nursing facility care.
- Issuing important guidance to nursing homes involved with cases of COVID-19.
To view the entire COVID-19 guide, visit Medicare.gov.
“The Medicare website is a great resource for helpful tips and services,” Woodruff said. “And if you have a Medicare Advantage Plan, you can call customer service anytime to inquire about any kind of physical or mental healthcare available to you. The number is right there on the back of your card.”