Medicare and COVID-19March 31, 2021
by Melissa Versch, LCSW, Senior & Family Services Clinical Supervisor
Medicare beneficiaries are among those most vulnerable to COVID-19—people who are over 65 years old or disabled. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has responded to the pandemic with updates to Medicare rules, ensuring those most at risk have comprehensive coverage without interruption. From testing and vaccines, treatment and recovery, to everyday healthcare needs, Medicare provides ongoing and enhanced coverage during the public health emergency.
Medicare Part B provides full coverage of testing and vaccination for COVID-19. You can get a test to see if you have COVID-19 at no charge, without a physician’s order, and at any testing site. The cost of a COVID-19 vaccine is also completely covered, with no deductible, copayment or coinsurance. The same coverage applies under Medicare Advantage plans, whether a provider is in-network or out-of-network. It is advised that you take your red, white and blue Medicare card with you to get the vaccine, even if you have a Medicare Advantage plan. If anyone asks for money for the vaccine, it is a scam.
Under Medicare Part A, temporarily relaxed Medicare rules make in-patient hospitalization and recovery for COVID-19 hassle-free. Patients can get a private hospital room when it is necessary to quarantine. If skilled care in a nursing home is needed, a qualifying hospital stay is not required, and Medicare may cover up to twice the number of days normally allowed. Treatments for COVID-19, including antibody infusions, are also covered. Under Medicare Advantage, copayments for hospitalization and skilled care may apply, though many companies have waived costs and restrictions for treatment of COVID-19.
Preventive care and health management are also important, even when going to the doctor’s office is not an option. More flexible rules make it easier to get ongoing healthcare with minimal risk. To reduce trips to the pharmacy, drug plans are approving 90-day supplies of prescription medications that might otherwise have quantity limits, with some exceptions for safety. Medicare rules have also expanded use of telehealth medicine, allowing you to talk with most health care providers by phone or video call from the comfort of your home.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, there are many uncertainties. Your healthcare should not be one of them. Expanded Medicare benefits during the COVID-19 pandemic helps ensure you get the care you need. In this public health emergency, Medicare has you covered.
The Senior Health Insurance Program (SHIP) provides free Medicare counseling. If you have questions or need assistance with Medicare, call our Senior and Family Services Department at 847.784.6040 to make a SHIP appointment.