The new coronavirus is affecting everything from the stock market to the availability of toilet paper. Naturally, you may also have questions about how COVID-19 will affect your medical expenses with Medicare. We’ve got you covered.
This guide answers the following questions:
- Does Medicare cover COVID-19 testing, treatment, and support?
- What Medicare benefits can I use while in quarantine?
- How can I fill prescriptions without leaving home?
- Where can I find the latest coronavirus information?
We’ll keep this page updated with any changes the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) makes to your benefits due to the coronavirus. So keep checking in to stay informed.
Does Medicare cover Coronavirus testing and treatment?
Yes, Medicare will cover testing, doctor visits, and hospitalization for COVID-19. If you have Part D prescription drug coverage, any COVID-19-related medications you need will likely be covered as well. Depending on how you receive your Medicare benefits, you may even see coverage for over-the-counter drugs and other expenses.
Medicare coverage for COVID-19 testing
Testing for the new coronavirus is covered under Medicare Part B (also known as medical insurance). Medicare will likely cover the entire cost of the test, since it’s considered a clinical diagnostic laboratory test, and these are generally covered in full when ordered by your doctor.1
Testing can take place at a drive-up testing area. If you’d rather stay home and lower your risk of exposure, a lab tech can test you at your house. Medicare will pay for either testing procedure.2
Of course, testing is subject to the availability of test kits where you live. Only tests conducted after February 4, 2020, will be covered, and your provider will need to wait until April 1, 2020, to submit the claim to Medicare.
Medicare coverage for COVID-19 treatment
If you contract the new coronavirus, Medicare’s various parts will cover treatment costs, including the following expenses:
- Part B will pay for doctor or urgent care visits.
- Part A will cover any necessary hospitalizations, including those required for quarantine or isolation.
- Part D and Medicare Advantage plans with prescription drug coverage would cover a COVID-19 vaccine, should one become available. (Currently, there aren’t any vaccines available, but several are in the works. Find the latest vaccine information on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website.)
- Medicare Advantage covers everything Parts A and B cover. Most plans also include prescription drug coverage that would cover a COVID-19 vaccine if one becomes available.
Most Medicare beneficiaries have at least Parts A and B, but fewer have drug coverage. If you want to add any coverage to your Medicare benefits, use the links below to find out how:
When you can join Medicare depends on what kind of plan you’re looking for and your current situation, so read up on Medicare enrollment periods, too.
Other coronavirus costs covered by Medicare
In addition to testing and treatment coverage, you may be entitled to other benefits if you have a Medicare Advantage plan. Beginning in 2020, many insurers added several benefits that support health and wellness to their Medicare Advantage plans. While these benefits are mostly intended to help those who are chronically ill, many of them could help you through the COVID-19 pandemic.
If you have a Medicare Advantage plan, you may have coverage for the following benefits:
- Meal delivery service: Get your meals delivered if you’re trying to avoid restaurants and senior centers.
- Transportation to the grocery store: Stocking your pantry for a few weeks of isolation is nearly impossible if you can’t get to the grocery store, but some plans will cover your use of a ride service. (Although, if you can swing it, having your groceries delivered or shopping for them online would be even better.)
- A drug store allowance: If you need over-the-counter medications and other medical supplies, your plan may provide a monthly stipend for such items.
- Medical travel benefits: If COVID-19 cases continue to climb in the coming weeks, hospitals and medical facilities in your area could reach full capacity. If you have to travel to receive the care you need, this benefit may cover some of those costs.
Data as of 9/24/2019.
If you already have Medicare Advantage, you might have access to these benefits and not know it. Contact your insurer to find out if your policy covers support benefits such as those above. If your plan doesn’t offer the benefits you’re looking for, you may still be able to switch Medicare Advantage plans during the Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period (MA OEP), which ends March 31.
If you have Original Medicare but are interested in these additional benefits, consider switching to Medicare Advantage. Check out our article on Original Medicare Vs. Medicare Advantage to make the right choice for your needs. While most people will need to wait until Medicare Open Enrollment (October 15 through December 7) to switch, you might be able to use a Special Enrollment Period (SEP), depending on your situation.
Using Medicare benefits while in quarantine
The CDC and the White House recommend that older adults and those with severe underlying health conditions stay home and avoid contact with others, even if they don’t feel sick.3
If you do feel sick or simply need regular health care during the pandemic, you may be able to receive medical attention from the safety of your home.
Using telehealth options with Medicare
If you’re worried about contracting the virus or spreading it to someone else at the doctor’s office, consider using telemedicine. During the coronavirus pandemic Medicare is covering telehealth office and hospital visits as if they were in-person visits.4
If you’re not familiar with telehealth, you’re not alone. It’s a relatively new service that’s popped up in the last few years.
With telehealth, you can “visit” your doctor virtually with a video call right from your home. While doctors can’t diagnose and treat all conditions over video, you could receive treatment and consultations for mild illnesses (such as a cold or an eye infection).
People experiencing coronavirus-related anxiety, or any other mental health concern, can also receive psychotherapy online.
Learn more about telehealth coverage under Medicare.
Can I get home health care to avoid exposure to COVID-19?
So far, the Medicare program hasn’t adjusted its home health care policy due to the coronavirus, but many people are eligible for these services already.
Learn more about home health care with Medicare.
Filling prescriptions during the pandemic
If you’re trying to stay home to avoid catching or spreading the coronavirus, we commend you for doing your part to stop the pandemic. But if you’re coming up on your last few pills while in quarantine, you may need to venture out to get your medications filled. Luckily, there are things you can do to limit (or even eliminate) trips to the drug store:
- Use a mail-order prescription service that delivers medications right to your door. As a bonus, mail-order prescriptions usually come in 90-day increments.
- If you prefer to visit your pharmacy in person, ask your doctor for a 90-day fill instead of the standard 30 days.
- If you’re running out of refills, ask your doctor for a refill anyway. Medicare is temporarily waiving its refill limits, so you might be able to avoid a trip to the doctor just to get a prescription renewal.
How to get Medicare information during the COVID-19 pandemic
On a good day, I’ve sat on hold for over an hour to talk to a Medicare representative. Now, with many people trying to stay informed about how their Medicare benefits will be affected by the coronavirus, phone wait times could be even longer.
If you don’t want to spend your afternoon waiting for answers, try the following sources first.
For Medicare updates
The best government source for new Medicare information is CMS.gov, the official website of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid. It’s the best place to find the latest media releases about how Medicare officials are responding to the coronavirus pandemic.
For questions about your own health
For questions related to your own health or medical history, consider calling your doctor’s office. Your physician’s staff may have tips for staying healthy and managing your medical needs during the pandemic.
If you have a Medicare Advantage, Part D, or Medigap (Medicare Supplement) plan, your insurer can be a useful resource as well. The company should be able to answer questions about your coverage and services that can help you through this uncertain time.
For Medicare coverage, cost, and other general information
Medicare.gov is the official Medicare website, and it outlines general program information and offers a handy tool for looking up what Medicare covers.
Of course, it never hurts to beef up your overall Medicare knowledge to ensure you’re able to take full advantage of your benefits. Check out our Medicare Guide to brush up on the different parts of Medicare and the benefits of each.
For the latest Coronavirus updates
While we answer Medicare-related questions in this guide, your best sources of info on COVID-19 itself are the official ones: the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO).
Also, the New York Times has a handy set of maps and charts tracking affected areas, and it updates them daily.
The coronavirus pandemic is evolving rapidly, but knowing more about how COVID-19 will affect your Medicare benefits can help you stay healthy, whether you become ill or not. We’ll keep updating this page as information becomes available so you don’t have to scour the internet to stay up-to-date.
So keep checking in. We’re happy to help.
1. Medicare, “Coronavirus Test”
2. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, “Regulatory Changes”
3. White House, “15 Days to Slow the Spread”
4. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, “Medicare Telemedicine Health Care Provider Fact Sheet”