The first coronavirus was discovered in the 1920s when a group of chickens became infected. However, the first human coronaviruses weren’t found until the 1960s. While there are several types of coronaviruses, only seven are known to affect humans, SARS-CoV-2 being one of them.
There have been a few other coronavirus pandemics in the last 20 years, such as SARS-CoV in 2003, which started in China, and MERS-CoV in 2013, which started in Saudi Arabia. SARS-CoV-2 is yet another coronavirus strand, which causes the COVID-19 disease – a respiratory illness.
COVID-19 symptoms include, but are not limited to, fever, dry cough, sore throat, and shortness of breath. Individuals with weakened immune systems are at greater risk for developing more serious illnesses from COVID-19, such as pneumonia or bronchitis. Seniors with pre-existing conditions, in particular, should learn how Medicare covers COVID-19 if they were to become infected.
Does Medicare cover coronavirus tests?
There are two types of COVID-19 tests – a viral test and an antibody test. The viral test will tell you if you are currently infected with COVID-19, while the antibody test will tell you if you’ve had the infection in the past. Medicare Part B covers both of these tests in full, leaving you with nothing to pay out of pocket.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends people who have COVID-19 symptoms, have been in contact with someone who currently has COVID-19 for at least 15 minutes, or have been referred by a doctor to get tested. While you wait for your results, you’ll want to self-quarantine just in case the test comes back positive.
Medicare covers these tests in several locations. You can get a viral test done at a lab, pharmacy, doctor’s office, hospital, a parking lot, and in some cases, your home. You can get an antibody test done at home, at a doctor’s office, or hospital.
Does Medicare cover coronavirus treatment?
Depending on the severity of your illness and your risk for complications, your doctor will either recommend caring for yourself at home until you can recover or admission to a hospital. If you’re told to stay at home, Medicare will cover doctor appointments and checkups via telecommunication – also called telemedicine.
Medicare and telemedicine
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Medicare Part B covers telemedicine doctor appointments the same as regular doctor appointments. Medicare Part B will cover 80% of the cost, and you will cover 20%. However, during the pandemic, doctors can choose to waive any cost-sharing for the patient.
Before the start of the pandemic, Medicare only covered telemedicine visits for particular beneficiaries in rural areas. However, Medicare will continue to cover telemedicine visits as they do now even after the pandemic ends.
Medicare and inpatient hospital stays
If you test positive and your doctor recommends you be admitted as an inpatient, Medicare Part A will cover your stay. As an inpatient, both Part A and Part B typically cover your care. A COVID-19 related hospital stay will have all the normal cost-sharing expenses you’re used to, such as the Part A deductible.
Your doctor may recommend you finish your recovery at a skilled nursing facility. However, stays at skilled nursing facilities are only covered by Medicare if you have an inpatient stay in the hospital lasting at least three days.
Does Medicare cover coronavirus vaccines?
At the time this article is being written, there isn’t an established vaccine for COVID-19. However, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), once there is a vaccine, Medicare Part D will be in charge of coverage, not Medicare Part B.
Medicare Part B and Part D both share responsibility when it comes to vaccines. Part B covers some vaccines, while Part D covers others. CMS has stated that every Part D plan will be required to cover the coronavirus vaccine once approved by the FDA. Again, seniors with pre-existing conditions are more at risk for developing complications from COVID-19. If you have pre-existing conditions, try to social distance and self-quarantine as much as possible. However, in the off chance you do become infected, Medicare will cover your much-needed care.