Medicare covers COVID testing as well as vaccinations.
News about the coronavirus has dominated headlines since we learned about it in early 2020. Not surprising, since the United States hasn't dealt with a pandemic since 1918. Unfortunately, a lot of the "news" out there is either outdated or was flat-out wrong to begin with. This post explains your Medicare coverage and answers some of the more common questions about coronavirus, aka COVID-19.
What Is the Coronavirus?
There are actually many types of coronaviruses, which originate in animals but may evolve to infect people. For example, there are four coronaviruses that cause the common cold. SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) is also caused by a coronavirus.
The strain currently infecting humans and causing this pandemic is known as COVID-19.
Does Medicare Cover Coronavirus Testing?
Yes, Medicare Part B covers testing for coronavirus. You have no out-of-pocket costs for this service. Coverage includes any test received after February 4, 2020.
Related COVID-19 services covered by Medicare include:
- Medicare Part D will cover a coronavirus vaccine as soon as one is available
- Medicare Part A covers a semiprivate room for inpatient hospital care. However, if there is a medical need for a private room, such as quarantining, Part A covers that, too.
- Outpatient hospital care is covered by Medicare Part B. Ask your doctor about your admission status, as being given a room and a bed do not automatically mean you're considered "inpatient." The distinction could cost you a bundle. See our post on hospital observation to understand why.
If you're preparing for quarantine or social distancing, you may also want to refill your prescriptions early. Talk to your Part D plan about any restrictions or limitations.
Why Are They Calling Coronavirus a Pandemic?
To qualify as a pandemic instead of an epidemic, a disease must spread rapidly across multiple regions. COVID-19 started as an epidemic, due to its isolation to China, but quickly spread to other countries.
What Are the Symptoms of Coronavirus?
The most common coronavirus symptoms are:
- Shortness of breath
People may also experience painful or aching joints, headache, and a sore throat. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommend seeking immediately medical attention if you experience any of the following:
- Difficulty breathing
- A blueish tinge to the face or lips
- Persistent chest pain or pressure
- Sudden feelings of confusion
It's important to note that symptoms take anywhere from 2 to 10 days to manifest after contracting COVID-19. In addition, many people experience symptoms no more alarming than a mild cold. However, even if you are asymptomatic, you can still transmit the disease to others.
How to Protect Yourself Against Coronavirus
The best thing you can do to protect yourself and those you love is to educate yourself about coronavirus. Turn to reliable sources, such as the CDC or World Health Organization (WHO). Both organizations update information daily and provide a wide variety of educational materials on their websites.
Other steps to take include:
- Wash your hands frequently, using soap and water, for at least 20 seconds. Include the backs of your hands and between your fingers.
- Avoid touching your face, particularly if you haven't washed your hands recently.
- Distance yourself from others by staying home as much as possible and maintaining a 6' distance between you and other people when you do leave the house.
- Use a tissue to cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze. If a tissue isn't available, use the inside of your elbow or sleeve, but never your hand.
- If you are sick, wear a facemask to protect others if you have to you leave the house.
- Clean and disinfect surfaces you touch frequently, including counters, doorknobs, light switches, phones, tables, toilets, keyboards, and faucets.
There is a lot of misinformation out there about COVID-19. Following are answers to the most commonly asked questions.
Will wearing a surgical mask protect me from coronavirus?
No, surgical masks are not effective at blocking exposure to the virus. However, if you have been diagnosed with COVID-19, wearing a mask may help protect others.
Isn't the flu more contagious than coronavirus?
It doesn't look like it. Scientists gauge how infectious a disease is by how many people are likely to catch it from one infected person. COVID-19 patients infect an average of 2.2 people. People with the flu, however, only infect 1.3 people on average.
Coronavirus is just like the common cold, right?
No, although there are four types of coronavirus that cause the common cold, this particular strain is different.
Is there a vaccine for coronavirus?
Not yet, but the CDC estimates they'll have one in 12 to 18 months.
Will the pneumococcal vaccine protect you against coronavirus?
No, although you should still get vaccinated for both flu and pneumonia, since it helps protect your respiratory system.
Doesn't coronavirus only affect old people?
Just like flu and the common cold, anyone can catch COVID-19; there is no age limit. Older people are more likely to experience severe symptoms, though. They also have a higher mortality rate than the general population.
Isn't the flu far more dangerous than coronavirus?
This is one of the more consistent claims, because the number of people who die from the flu every year is relatively high. The CDC estimates that there were around 35.5 million cases of the flu during the 2018-2019 flu season. Of those, around 34,200 died. That's a death rate of around 0.1 percent.
Experts still aren’t positive how many people die from COVID-19, because testing in the U.S. hadn't been available. But estimates put the mortality rate at around 2 percent. That's 20 times higher than the flu. And that's the overall mortality rate. It's much higher – around 18 percent – for people over age 70, those with respiratory issues, and anyone with a compromised immune system.
Can you take antibiotics for coronavirus?
No, antibiotics do not work on viruses. There are no medications (to date) that cure COVID-19.
Will the coronavirus go away when it gets warm?
So far, people have contracted coronavirus all over the world – even in places where it's warm like Australia.
Although climate doesn't seem to play a role in transmitting COVID-19, some doctors do expect to see fewer cases as the weather gets warmer. However, they also predict the problem will be much worse in the fall, when flu season starts again.
Can you kill coronavirus with a UV lamp?
There are UV lamps that offer disinfectant properties. But these kill bacteria, not viruses. You cannot protect yourself with ultraviolet light.
When it comes to protecting yourself against coronavirus, the power of education cannot be overstated. Rely on authoritative sources, like your local health department and the CDC. Verify everything you read. Share information from reputable sources.
Finally, stop the flow of misinformation by not sharing email chains and social media posts until you've confirmed that the information they share is valid.