Coronavirus, Medicare, and Telemedicine
During a worldwide pandemic like COVID-19 caused by the coronavirus, everyone is encouraged to stay indoors to protect themselves. However, if you feel ill, you still need medical care.
That can be a problem for vulnerable seniors who shouldn’t risk exposure to the coronavirus in crowded waiting rooms. Luckily, Medicare has stepped up its coverage during this crisis. Here’s what Medicare is doing to keep you safe when you need healthcare in the era of COVID-19.
What is coronavirus?
Many viruses can spread person-to-person and the coronavirus is one of them. There are different strains of coronavirus, but the one that has recently spread worldwide is called COVID-19. COVID-19 originated in Wuhan, China, in December 2019. This virus spreads through respiratory droplets released into the air when an infected person sneezes or coughs. Since the respiratory droplets can only travel a few feet, social distancing plays a significant part in stopping the spread of coronavirus. When you go out in public, experts recommend you stay at least six feet away from other people to avoid any traveling droplets.
The signs of COVID-19 are fever, shortness of breath, a dry cough, and the loss of taste and smell. COVID-19 can lead to severe respiratory problems, kidney failure, and even death. COVID-19 has caused hundreds of thousands of deaths around the world, but the good news is that the vast majority of people recover.
Coronavirus and Medicare
If you need to get tested for coronavirus, Medicare has you covered. Coronavirus tests are available nationwide and can be administered by a laboratory technician, medical assistant, home nurse, or your healthcare provider. Home test kits are now available, as well.
If your doctor or health care provider orders the test, Part B will cover it at no cost to you if the provider participates with Medicare. Your deductible and copay for the test is typically waived, along with costs for related services such as hospital observation.
Currently, there is no vaccine for COVID-19. When a vaccine becomes available, Medicare will cover it at 100% under your Part B preventive care benefit.
What is Telemedicine?
Telemedicine is technology that provides real-time, health-related communication between a patient and a healthcare provider. Telemedicine allows a healthcare provider to examine, treat, and diagnose you remotely; you won’t have to leave home to get care. To use most telemedicine platforms, you will need access to a device with a video camera, such as a smartphone, tablet, or computer.
Avoiding exposure to the virus is one of the main benefits of telemedicine. Telemedicine helps seniors stay safe when the CDC recommends staying home as much as possible. Of course, if you have a medical emergency, don’t wait for a telemedicine appointment, call 911.
Does Medicare cover telemedicine?
As of March 2020, Part B covers most telemedicine services. Your healthcare provider can treat COVID-19 and most other illnesses with telemedicine. Your deductible and coinsurance apply. Although many healthcare providers are waiving or reducing coinsurance payments during this time of need.
It’s important to take every recommended precaution to remain healthy during the coronavirus pandemic. If you get sick, resist the urge to visit the doctor’s office unless telemedicine isn’t an option. You will receive the same level of care that you would get at the doctor’s office while avoiding any unnecessary exposure.
About the Author
Danielle K. Roberts is the Vice President and co-founder at Boomer Benefits, where her team of experts help baby boomers with their Medicare decisions nationwide.