COVID-19, or commonly known as the coronavirus, has affected communities across the world, but Medicare recipients may be especially concerned about their health and well-being during this pandemic. With seniors and individuals with compromised immune systems at higher risk for serious complications and death from coronavirus, it is essential that everyone understands how to prevent, detect, and get treatment for illness during this time. It’s important to understand how Medicare will support your healthcare needs during this pandemic.
What is COVID-19?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), COVID-19 is a new virus causing respiratory illness that is spreading quickly across the world from person-to-person. The symptoms can include:
- Shortness of breath
- Cold symptoms
If you are ill, the CDC is recommending that you contact your physician. Your doctor may suggest that you stay at home to recover from mild symptoms, or if you have more severe symptoms, you may be asked to visit a testing center or hospital.
Please keep in mind, the following symptoms require immediate medical attention:
- Difficulty breathing
- Shortness of breath
- Pain or pressure in the chest
- Bluish lips or face
If you are experiencing any changes in your health and are concerned, call your doctor right away. They can give you the advice you need and help you get testing and treatment if need be.
How Can You Help Slow the Spread of the Disease?
You can make a difference in the battle against the spread of coronavirus by following guidelines issued by the CDC and from federal, state, and local government agencies. Using proper hygiene can help protect you and your loved ones, including:
- Wash your hands frequently for 20 seconds with hot water and soap
- Use hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol
- Avoid touching your face, eyes, mouth, and nose
- Disinfect and clean your house, with special focus on frequently handled items, such as light switches, faucets, and doorknobs
Avoid contact with anyone who may be carrying the virus by practicing “social distancing.”
What is Social Distancing?
Social distancing means standing at least 6 feet away from other people and avoiding contact with someone who may be more at risk from COVED-19 complications. While it may be natural to want to spend time with extended family at this time, getting together with aging parents or family members with pre-existing medical conditions can out them at risk. The CDC recommends avoiding groups of 10 or more people.
Many states have instituted “safe at home” closures, but essential businesses, like pharmacies and grocery stores remain open. Some retail stores are creating special shopping hours for those at higher risk, such as seniors. Others have started offering “no contact” delivery services for your prescriptions and household items.
Physical movement and exercising is very important during this stressful period of time. With gyms and recreation centers closed, you are encouraged to go outside to workout. As long as you keep the appropriate distance from other people, taking a walk or enjoying a hike might be a great distraction and can help you feel better overall.
Getting Through the Crisis
Despite the chaos and confusion of the COVID-19 pandemic is causing, it’s important to rely on friends and family, the resources we have available, and our community partners. Even if you are quarantined or instructed to “shelter in place,” continue to touch base with friends and family through telephone calls, video chats, and social media. Everyone is feeling the stress of this unexpected situation, but you don’t have to feel alone.
Don’t underestimate the power of community. Check in with your neighbors and ask them for help if you are concerned with going to the grocery store. Or, if you know someone who may be at risk due to age or illness, ask them if they need food or paper products that you can deliver to their doorstep. Many local restaurants and services are now offering “contact free delivery,” as well.
Your Medicare Coverage
Medicare will cover the lab tests associated with COVID-19 – you will not pay anything out-of-pocket for the test. If a hospital stay is required due to coronavirus, you will be covered by Medicare. If a vaccine is released, it will be covered by Medicare Part D. Telehealth services have been expanded so you can receive some services without ever leaving your home.
If you are enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan, you may have access to additional benefits. Check with your plan directly for more information.
For more detailed information about Medicare coverage as it relates to COVID-19, please visit the official Medicare website.