What You Need to Know About Medicare & COVID-19 Telemedicine

covid 19 clear test glass

Recently, coronavirus has put Americans at risk for serious illness. Those who are most at risk for contracting COVID-19 and experiencing severe symptoms are seniors (65 and older) and those with underlying health conditions. Most people over 65 are covered by Medicare, so how does Medicare factor in if you catch the virus? Steinlage Insurance Agency is here to provide you with all of the COVID-19 and Medicare information you need to know.

How Does Medicare Cover COVID-19 Testing and Treatment?

All COVID-19 testing for Medicare beneficiaries that is ordered by a health care provider who accepts Medicare is covered under Part B (outpatient services). This applies to traditional Medicare or Medicare Advantage. Co-pay and deductible amounts for the test have been waived, along with associated services such as physician visits or hospital observation.

If you become seriously ill from the virus, all medically necessary treatment is covered by Medicare. Inpatient stays are paid by Medicare, as well, including if you are medically able to be discharged but need to remain in the hospital for quarantine purposes.

What is Telemedicine?

In addition to covering COVID-19 testing and treatment costs, Medicare has expanded services and loosened rules in response to the pandemic. Medicare beneficiaries can now receive a wider range of services from their home and avoid traveling to a healthcare facility that could put themselves and others at risk. This telecommunication with your healthcare professional is done through real-time, secure audio or video technologies. It is called telemedicine or telehealth.

Telemedicine is used by healthcare professionals to diagnose and treat illness and disease, while telehealth is focused on health monitoring and health maintenance. Typically, no special equipment is required. You simply download an app on your smartphone or computer. Depending on your cell phone plan, you may have data charges.

How Does Medicare Cover Telemedicine for Coronavirus?

Telemedicine/telehealth is covered under Medicare Part B (medical insurance). You pay 20% of the Medicare-approved amount for your health care provider’s services. Coinsurance and deductibles apply, so for most telehealth services, you’ll pay the same amount that you would have if you had gotten the services in person. However, some healthcare providers are reducing or waiving the amount you pay for telehealth visits. If you have a Medicare Supplement policy, they will pick up the 20% balances. If you are on a Plan F or Plan G, you can expect zero out of pocket costs for COVID-19 related services.

Telemedicine/telehealth services include:

  • Evaluation and management visits that typically take place in-office.
  • Virtual check-ins for frequent monitoring of beneficiaries with chronic conditions.
  • E-visits that take place through a patient portal for non-emergency issues, such as a medication refill request. E-visits require an established patient-provider relationship.

If you have coverage through a Medicare Advantage Plan, there may be more telemedicine services offered beyond these authorized by Part B.

Other Medicare Benefits for Coronavirus

During this public health emergency, you may have access to expanded benefits. Your Medicare Advantage plan might:

  • Pay for meal and grocery delivery.
  • Cover home health aides who can help you clean and disinfect your home.
  • Pay for a private ride service to and from the pharmacy so you can avoid public transportation if your pharmacy doesn’t deliver.
  • Pay for your stockpile of Tylenol, hand sanitizer, and devices that help your doctor monitor your health over telemedicine visits.

Your plan brochure will have all of the details for your specific benefits.

Tips for Seniors to Protect Themselves from Coronavirus

Although seniors are more at risk, especially those with underlying health conditions like lung conditions, heart conditions, diabetes, etc., there are ways you can better protect yourself from COVID-19.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends following these tips to decrease your risk of exposure to coronavirus:

  • Stock up on your daily medications with a three-month supply (you may need to contact your doctor or pharmacist to get a prescription for an extended supply of doses).
  • Stock up on supplies to self-treat symptoms if you develop COVID-19 and need to self-isolate. Supplies could include aspirin, Tylenol, thermometers, facial tissues, and hand sanitizer. (If you have underlying conditions, additional supplies such as a blood pressure cuff and pulse oximeter may be useful for telemedicine monitoring.)
  • Stock up on household staples and groceries so you don’t have to go out in public as much.
  • Get meals, medications, and supplies delivered as much as you can (either from your network of family and friends or delivery services).
  • Record your temperature every day to stay on top of potential problems. Fever is one of the first signs of coronavirus and, if you begin to feel ill, having a temperature log will help your healthcare provider make an accurate diagnosis.
  • Avoid in-person contact with friends and family. Instead, use technology to stay connected to loved ones. People can be carrying the disease without showing symptoms for up to 14 days, so even if no one is showing signs of illness, the best way to stay safe is to stay isolated.
  • Get outside if you are in good health. Self-isolation does not mean having to be stuck indoors. Sit outside and enjoy the nice weather or take a walk, just remain at least 6 feet away from others.

Contact Steinlage Insurance Agency

You are not alone during these challenging times — the knowledgeable insurance agents at Steinlage Insurance Agency are here to help! We can provide free, personalized assistance.