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Thursday April 2, 2020

Savvy Living

Savvy Senior

How Medicare is Handling Coronavirus

Is Medicare covering testing for the coronavirus? My husband and I are very nervous about this virus and would like to find out if or when we should get tested and how Medicare manages it.

Medicare is covering the cost of testing for the coronavirus, known as COVID-19. Be aware that getting a test is not as simple as going to your local pharmacy or doctor’s office and requesting one. Here is a breakdown of what Medicare is covering, along with how to get tested if you think you may have symptoms.

Medicare Coverage


Medicare (Part B) will cover the lab test for COVID-19, but only when your doctor or other health care provider orders it. You will pay no out-of-pocket costs for this tests.

In addition, Medicare covers all medically necessary hospitalizations. This includes needing to stay in the hospital under quarantine if you are diagnosed with COVID-19. While there is currently no vaccine to protect against COVID-19, when one becomes available it will be covered by all Medicare prescription drug plans (Part D).

If you receive Medicare benefits through a private Medicare Advantage plan, you will have access to the same benefits. In addition, many Advantage plans are also expanding coverage of tele-medicine, which allows beneficiaries to consult with medical professionals without having to go to a doctor’s office. Check with your plan for coverage details.

When to Call Your Doctor


Adults age 60 and older, especially those in their 70s and above, and people with chronic medical conditions like diabetes, heart, lung or kidney disease are at a higher risk of serious illness if they contract COVID-19. Everyone in these categories should be vigilant.

Symptoms of COVID-19 include fever, cough and shortness of breath. Severe cases can lead to pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure and death.

If you develop any symptoms that are concerning, you should contact your primary care provider by phone for guidance. If your doctor believes you need testing, he or she will provide instructions on what to do next. Unfortunately, there have been reports of test shortages across the country, so depending on where you live you may have to wait a few days.

Prevention Tips


To help you steer clear of COVID-19, the CDC recommends that you avoid close contact with others. 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 is not available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.

To the extent possible, try to avoid touching your face, nose and eyes. Avoid touching high-touch surfaces in public places, like elevator buttons, door handles and handrails. Use a tissue or your sleeve to cover your hand or finger if you touch these surfaces. You should also avoid shaking hands with people.

Also, 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.

You should also avoid crowds, especially in poorly ventilated spaces. Your risk of exposure to respiratory viruses like COVID-19 may increase in crowded, closed-in settings with little air circulation if there are people in the crowd who are sick. If you are subject to any local orders to shelter in place, please respect those guidelines.

The CDC also recommends that seniors and high-risk individuals obtain certain supplies, such as non-perishable food, groceries and extra necessary medications, so that you are able to remain at home for an extended period of time. If there is an outbreak in your community, remain at home as much as possible. The CDC discourages all non-essential travel.

For more information on the COVID-19, visit Coronavirus.gov.

Savvy Living is written by Jim Miller, a regular contributor to the NBC Today Show and author of "The Savvy Living" book. Any links in this article are offered as a service and there is no endorsement of any product. These articles are offered as a helpful and informative service to our friends and may not always reflect this organization's official position on some topics. Jim invites you to send your senior questions to: Savvy Living, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070.

Published March 27, 2020
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