Medicare and Me: COVID-19 and You

Leah Sugar Kari, certified medical representative and licensed insurance agent specializing in Medicare products

You’re doing the good stuff—social distancing, vigorous hand washing, and staying at home to do your part in halting the progression of the COVID-19 virus. As partners in your health care, Medicare and your insurance plan are providing important assistance to its beneficiaries in the face of the pandemic.

When a vaccine is available for COVID-19, it will be covered by all Medicare prescription drug plans. Medicare will waive any cost sharing for COVID-19 lab tests. Medicare will cover all medically necessary hospitalizations. If you’ve been diagnosed with COVID-19 and are hospitalized, Medicare will cover your stay if you must stay quarantined in the hospital, where under routine circumstances you would have been discharged.

Telehealth, the ability to access healthcare remotely through telephone, smartphone, or computer, is expanded to provide access to physicians and care. This expansion is temporary for Medicare beneficiaries who do not have a telemedicine benefit as part of their health plan. You’ll speak to a doctor, have prescriptions issued, and receive other services that are part of a routine doctor’s office visit for a reasonable charge. Medicare Advantage plans may have a telehealth benefit for an affordable copay or coinsurance as part of their plan. This benefit may allow a mental health telemedicine component, helpful indeed in these challenging times.

Your plan may provide 24/7 access to a registered nurse line. Speaking to a nurse may be very helpful to you and this feature is provided as a plan benefit offered at cost. Your plan’s fitness benefit may allow you to receive at-home exercise equipment or telephonic health coaching.

All drug plans offer mail order pharmacy, so your drugs will be sent to you with no shipping cost. Lastly, many Advantage plans offer over-the-counter health and wellness products, also shipped to you at no cost. Placing an order is a simple matter of a telephone call or ordering items online. Call your plan’s customer service line or your agent to receive more details on your plan’s benefits and how to access them.

We’re sequestered, but we’re smart. We have rich resources at our fingertips, and at no cost. Here are some phone numbers and websites for you.

Medicare: Medicare.gov, 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227) TTY: 771

Centers for Disease Control: CDC.gov, 1-800-CDC-INFO (1-800-232-4636) TTY: 771

National Institute of Mental Health Information Resource Center: NAMI.gov, 1-866-615-6464: TTY 1-301-443-8431 or TTY Toll Free 1-866-415-8051

Leah Sugar Kari, certified medical representative and retired pharmaceutical representative, is a local, licensed life and health insurance broker specializing in showing Medicare eligible people their insurance options in Tucson. Reach Leah for comments at 520-484-3807 or [email protected] (TTY users dial 711.)