Medicare to Cover Testing for the Coronavirus

Coronavirus test
Photo by SamaraHeisz5 / Shutterstock.com

Here is a rare bit of good news for older Americans worried about contracting COVID-19 — the official name for what is more commonly referred to as “the coronavirus.” If you have Medicare Part B, it will cover the cost of testing for the disease so long as a few conditions are met.

Patients usually pay nothing for covered diagnostic lab tests, the Medicare program said in an announcement Wednesday.

Medicare, the federal health insurance program that primarily serves people age 65 and older, will cover the coronavirus test if:

  • Your health care provider orders the test.
  • You got it on or after Feb. 4.
  • Your health care provider waits until after April 1 to submit an insurance claim for it.

The Medicare program also has created a standardized insurance billing code specifically for the coronavirus testing, for health care providers to use when submitting insurance claims for the test.

Medicare explains:

“This code will allow those labs conducting the tests to bill for the specific test instead of using an unspecified code, which means better tracking of the public health response for this particular strain of the coronavirus to help protect people from the spread of this infectious disease.”

In recent days, anger has risen with the Trump administration and the wider federal government over what appears to be a lack of available testing kits in the U.S.

The government now says it is working hard to address those concerns, the Associated Press reports.

Dr. Stephen Hahn, head of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, says the FDA has teamed up with a private company to get up to 2,500 test kits to labs this week. Each kit can be used for 500 tests, so the total would provide about 1.25 million tests.

In addition, many experts and others have criticized the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for initially restricting coronavirus testing mostly to people who had been hospitalized.

On Tuesday, Vice President Mike Pence, whom President Donald Trump named to lead the U.S. coronavirus response, said any American can be tested for the virus so long as his or her doctor orders such a test.

As of this morning, there were 80 cases of coronavirus in the U.S., according to the CDC. Nine people have died as a result, and cases of the virus have been reported in 13 states.

Worldwide, there have been more than 90,000 COVID-19 infections and more than 3,100 deaths, according to the World Health Organization.

For most people, coronavirus infection is likely to produce mild symptoms. They can include:

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath

Matthew Frieman, a virologist at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, said in a Washington Post report last month:

“This looks to be a bad, heightened cold — I think that’s a rational way of thinking about it. Not to diminish its importance — it’s in the middle between SARS and the common cold.”

Symptoms typically begin two days to two weeks after you have been infected.

COVID-19 primarily is spread from person to person, usually when someone with the virus coughs or sneezes and you breathe in the respiratory droplets. Folks with minor symptoms are urged to stay home while sick to avoid exposing anyone else, whose infection might be much more severe.

In a minority of patients — particularly the elderly and those with compromised immune systems — coronavirus infection can be deadly. To date, there is no vaccine to fight off the illness.

Are you worried about the spread of COVID-19? Sound off in comments below or on our Facebook page.

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