The world has been in the throes of battling a pandemic caused by a novel coronavirus, COVID-19. For months now, scientists and medical professionals have been working on designing an effective antibody test in hopes that billions of people will have the chance to regain some normalcy in life, to get back to work, and to get economies running again.
For epidemiologists, widespread antibody testing will give them a better picture of how herd immunity is progressing and how long people will be protected against future infections of COVID-19. The results of this testing will help people feel more comfortable when they go back to work or into the community.
Many states in the U.S. are now beginning to make antibody testing available for anyone who wants a test. Soon thousands of pharmacies across the country will have them in stock for people to purchase. For people who count on Medicare benefits for their healthcare costs, the question is, will Medicare pay for a COVID-19 antibody test?
Do your Medicare benefits cover the antibody test for COVID-19?
If you have Medicare Part B (medical insurance), you have complete coverage for an FDA-approved COVID-19 antibody, or serology, test. Your Medicare Part B benefits pay 100 percent of the cost even if you self-administer the test at home.
If you have a Medicare Advantage plan, you are also covered for 100 percent of an FDA-approved test’s cost. Medicare Advantage providers are required by federal law to provide all benefits covered by Original Medicare Parts A and B. Also, in mid-April 2020, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services ordered all private insurance providers to waive any out-of-pocket charges for the COVID-19 antibody tests.
How do you get the COVID-19 antibody test?
As of now, the FDA has given its approval for several different types of antibody tests and these are available in some areas. The CDC is also evaluating several commercially-made tests to ensure their efficacy before being used by the public. If you are a Medicare beneficiary and want to get tested, you should contact your health care provider to see if they have access to antibody tests, or if they can direct you to where you can find reliable tests that are covered by your Medicare benefits.
What do the antibody tests show?
A COVID-19 antibody test detects the presence of coronavirus IgG antibodies which show that you may have been exposed to the COVID-19 virus and your body has produced antibodies to fight off this infection. These tests are not always conclusive, and you may get a false negative or a false positive result.
If you have a positive test result, this indicates the possibility of exposure to either COVID-19 or another type of coronavirus. Unfortunately, scientists are not certain yet that these antibodies protect people from future infection or immunity from COVID-19. This is why it is important that everyone still commits to taking proper safety measures seriously.
If you do test positive for antibodies and have no symptoms of the virus, it is probable that you do not have an active infection. This could also show that you have had an asymptomatic COVID-19 infection. If you do have symptoms, you should have a viral test for COVID-19.
If you have a negative test result, it is highly probable that you have not had a past COVID-19 infection. However, there is still a possibility that you have been infected because it takes 1-3 weeks for antibodies to show up after initial infection. If you have a negative antibody test and later have symptoms, you should get a COVID-19 viral nose swab test.
You can call your physician or check your local Medicare office to get more information on the availability of COVID-19 antibody testing in your area.