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Medicare wants to help protect you from COVID-19:
Your health, safety, and welfare in the face of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is our highest priority. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), older adults and people who have severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung, or kidney disease seem to be at higher risk for more serious COVID-19 illness. This means that most people with Medicare are at higher risk.
Follow the President’s Coronavirus Guidelines for America
Visit Whitehouse.gov for the full set of guidelines. Here are some critical ways for you to do your part:
- Listen to and follow the directions of your state and local authorities.
- Keep the entire household at home if someone in your household has tested positive for coronavirus.
- If you’re an older person or if you’re a person with a serious underlying health condition that can put you at increased risk (like a condition that impairs your lung or heart function or weakens your immune system), stay home and away from other people.
Slow the spread of coronavirus
All of us must do our part to slow the spread of the Coronavirus. Here’s how to help:
- Avoid social gatherings in groups of more than 10 people.
- Avoid close contact (6 feet, which is about two arm lengths) with people who are sick.
- Work or engage in schooling from home whenever possible.
- Avoid eating or drinking at bars, restaurants, and food courts — use drive-thru, pickup, or delivery options.
- Avoid discretionary travel, shopping trips, and social visits.
Hygiene precautions to take now
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after being out in public, blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
- If soap and water aren't available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
- To the extent possible, avoid touching high-touch surfaces in public places, like elevator buttons, door handles, handrails, and handshaking with people. Use a tissue or your sleeve to cover your hand or finger if you must touch something.
- Avoid touching your face, nose, and eyes.
- Clean and disinfect your home to remove germs: Practice routine cleaning of frequently touched surfaces—tables, doorknobs, light switches, handles, desks, toilets, faucets, sinks and cell phones.
Preparing for healthcare needs
- Be sure you have over-the-counter medicines and medical supplies (like tissues) to treat fever and other symptoms. Most people will be able to recover from COVID-19 at home.
- Have enough household items and groceries on hand so that you'll be prepared to stay at home for a period of time.
Coping with stress
Older people are at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19 which may result in increased stress during a crisis. Here are a few things you can do to cope with that stress:
- Take breaks from watching, reading, or listening to news stories and social media. Hearing about the pandemic repeatedly can be upsetting.
- Take care of your body. Take deep breaths, stretch, or meditate. Try to eat healthy, well-balanced meals, exercise regularly, get plenty of sleep, and avoid alcohol and drugs.
- Make time to unwind. Try to do some other activities you enjoy.
- Connect with others. Talk with people you trust about your concerns and how you are feeling.
- Call your healthcare provider if stress gets in the way of your daily activities for several days in a row.
- If you, or someone you care about, are feeling overwhelmed with emotions like sadness, depression, or anxiety, or feel like you want to harm yourself or others, call
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA’s) Disaster Distress Helpline: 1-800-985-5990 or text TalkWithUs to 66746 (TTY: 1-800-846-8517).
Medicare covers related needs
- Medicare covers the lab tests for COVID-19. You pay no out-of-pocket costs.
- Medicare covers FDA-authorized COVID-19 antibody (or “serology”) tests if you were diagnosed with a known current or known prior COVID-19 infection or suspected current or suspected past COVID-19 infection.
- Medicare covers all medically necessary hospitalizations. This includes if you're diagnosed with COVID-19 and might otherwise have been discharged from the hospital after an inpatient stay, but instead you need to stay in the hospital under quarantine. You’ll still pay for any hospital deductibles, copays, or coinsurances that apply.
Military hospital ships and temporary military hospitals don’t charge Medicare or civilians for care. If you’re not sure whether the hospital will charge you, ask them.
- At this time, there's no vaccine for COVID-19. However, it will be covered if one becomes available.
- If you have a Medicare Advantage Plan, you have access to these same benefits. Medicare allows these plans to waive cost-sharing for COVID-19 lab tests. Many plans offer additional telehealth benefits and expanded benefits, like meal delivery or medical transport services. Check with your plan about your coverage and costs.
- Scammers may use the coronavirus national emergency to take advantage of people while they’re distracted. As always, guard your Medicare card like a credit card, check Medicare claims summary forms for errors, and if someone calls asking for your Medicare Number, hang up!
Telehealth & related services
Medicare has temporarily expanded its coverage of telehealth services to respond to the current Public Health Emergency. These services expand the current telehealth covered services, to help you have access from more places (including your home), with a wider range of communication tools (including smartphones), to interact with a range of providers (like doctors, nurse practitioners, clinical psychologists, licensed clinical social workers, physical therapists, occupational therapists, and speech language pathologists). During this time, you will be able to receive a specific set of services through telehealth including evaluation and management visits (common office visits), mental health counseling and preventive health screenings without a copayment if you have Original Medicare. This will help ensure you are able to visit with your doctor from your home, without having to go to a doctor’s office or hospital, which puts you and others at risk of exposure to COVID-19.
- You may be able to communicate with your doctors or certain other practitioners without necessarily going to the doctor’s office in person for a full visit. Medicare pays for “virtual check-ins”—brief, virtual services with your physician or certain practitioners where the communication isn't related to a medical visit within the previous 7 days and doesn’t lead to a medical visit within the next 24 hours (or soonest appointment available).
- You need to consent verbally to using virtual check-ins and your doctor must document that consent in your medical record before you use this service. You pay your usual Medicare coinsurance and deductible for these services.
- Medicare also pays for you to communicate with your doctors using online patient portals without going to the doctor’s office. Like the virtual check-ins, you must initiate these individual communications.
- Since some people don’t have access to interactive audio-video technology needed for Medicare telehealth services, or choose not to use it even if offered by their practitioner, Medicare is allowing people to use an audio-only phone.
- You may use communication technology to have full visits with your doctors. Also, you can get these visits at rural health clinics and federally qualified health clinics. Medicare pays for many medical visits through this telehealth benefit.
Stay safe when states open up
- Although providers and facilities will continue to use telehealth services when available and appropriate, they will offer more in-person health care services for non-emergency and non-COVID-19-related care.
- Providers and facilities will minimize exposure, so you may experience some changes during your visit, including:
- Waiting in your vehicle until the start of the visit.
- Using a limited entrance.
- Be screened for COVID-19, including having your temperature checked.
- Avoiding waiting rooms and areas.
- Maintaining social distancing.
- Wearing a face covering, which will be provided to you, if you don’t have your own.
Other ways Medicare is helping
Every day, Medicare is responsible for developing and enforcing the essential health and safety requirements that health care providers must meet. When you go to a healthcare provider, you expect a certain standard of care, and we work to make sure you get it. That includes taking additional steps in response to coronavirus:
- Medicare Advantage Plans and Prescription Drug Plans may waive or relax prior authorization requirements.
- Taking aggressive actions and exercising regulatory flexibilities to help healthcare providers and Medicare health plans.
- As part of an effort to address the urgent need to increase capacity to care for patients, hospitals can now provide hospital services in other healthcare facilities and sites that aren’t currently considered part of a healthcare facility. This includes off-site screenings. Medicare covers medically necessary care in these facilities and sites.
- Waiving certain requirements for skilled nursing facility care.
- Establishing new codes to allow providers to correctly bill for services related to diagnosis and treatment of the illness.
- Instructing our national network of State Survey Agencies and Accrediting Organizations to focus all their efforts on infection prevention and other cases of abuse and neglect in nursing homes and hospitals.
- Instructing nursing homes and hospitals to review their infection control procedures, which they're required to maintain at all times.
- Issuing important guidance answering questions that nursing homes may have with respect to addressing cases of COVID-19.