Because of their vulnerability, people ages 65 and up were the first group targeted by the healthcare industry’s effort to vaccinate the public against the coronavirus.
Medicare beneficiaries don’t have to pay to get the COVID-19 vaccine. But what if you didn’t get the shot and you become ill with the coronavirus – or you did get vaccinated, and still develop COVID?
And if you get it, will Medicare cover your care? We found some answers to these questions. But first, let’s look at how the coronavirus has affected older Americans in general and Medicare beneficiaries in particular.
COVID-19’s Impact on Seniors
About 63 million Americans were enrolled in Medicare as of April 2021. Of those, 57% were in Medicare Fee for Service (Original Medicare), and 43% enrolled in Medicare Advantage (MA) plans.
Last year, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) conducted a study in which HHS analyzed the Medicare claims of 3.1 million residents of nursing homes and skilled nursing facilities. (Most of the residents of nursing homes are Medicare beneficiaries.)
It found in 2020, 2 in 5 Medicare beneficiaries in nursing homes were diagnosed with either COVID-19 or likely COVID-19. Furthermore, close to half of Black, Hispanic and Asian Medicare beneficiaries in nursing homes had or likely had COVID. By comparison, 41% of White beneficiaries did.
Exercise Caution Everywhere
Even if you don’t reside in a nursing home, you’re still at risk of developing or spreading COVID-19. The delta variant now moving across the U.S. is even more contagious – and dangerous – than the original coronavirus, the CDC warns.
You don’t know who else you may come into contact with that has it yet does not display any symptoms or signs of the illness.
Also, keep in mind that even fully vaccinated people can spread the delta variant to others.
Medicare and COVID-19 Vaccination
As we mentioned, Medicare covers the cost of the coronavirus vaccine. You may need to show your Medicare card, so take it with you if you go to your doctor or other location.
If you can’t get to a vaccination site due to disability or other challenges, Medicare will cover the cost of sending a physician to your residence to give you the shot.
To arrange this, get in touch with your primary care doctor first to see if they can inoculate you. If not, they may refer you to another physician or health care provider who can.
Do not accept a COVID-19 vaccine (or any vaccine) from someone you don’t know or who contacts you without invitation. Furthermore, only give your Medicare number out to providers you trust. Scammers and fraudsters have taken advantage of some beneficiaries.
COVID Treatment and Hospitalization
In addition to COVID-19 vaccinations, Medicare covers COVID lab tests and FDA-authorized COVID-19 antibody tests, if you were diagnosed with a known current or known prior COVID infection – or suspected current or previous infection.
Also covered are monoclonal antibody treatments and medically necessary hospitalizations.
Medicare Advantage plan members have these benefits as well. Medicare lets MA plans waive cost-sharing for COVID-19 lab tests.
Many plans offer telehealth benefits. Some even cover meal delivery or medical transport. Be sure to confirm what your particular MA plan covers.
While we’ve made progress against the coronavirus, we’re not out of the woods yet. Medicare beneficiaries should get vaccinated if they are not; be careful about who they come into contact with; and seek treatment if they believe or know they’ve become infected with COVID-19.
Taking these steps will help reduce the spread of this highly contagious and dangerous illness among people of all ages.
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