For the first time in a century, the world faces a new pandemic. In recent weeks, every headline seems to be about the coronavirus. Unfortunately, with the situation changing daily – and sometimes hourly – there is a lot of misinformation out there. This post describes the basics and explains Medicare coverage for coronavirus testing and treatment.
What Is Coronavirus?
Coronavirus actually describes a family of viruses that cause a variety of illnesses, including the common cold and severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS). Coronavirus disease 2019, also known as COVID-19, is a new strain discovered in, you guessed it, 2019.
Health experts also recommend we practice social isolation. This means limiting nonessential travel, avoiding gatherings of more than 10 people, and spending as much time at home as possible. The goal of social isolation is twofold. One, you limit your exposure to a highly contagious disease. And two, you limit other people’s exposure to you.
It’s important to note that you can spread the disease without even realizing that you have it, particularly within the first week of contacting COVID-19.
How to Protect Yourself Against Coronavirus
The best way to protect yourself against coronavirus is to wash your hands frequently using warm water and soap. Start by wetting your hands with cool or warm water. Then, turn off the faucet, apply soap, and wash hands thoroughly for 20 seconds, including the backs of your hands and between your fingers. End by rinsing hands completely and drying on a clean towel.
Symptoms of Coronavirus
The most common coronavirus symptoms are:
- Shortness of breath
There are also symptoms that the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) describes as “emergency warning signs.” These are:
- Difficulty breathing
- Persistent chest pain
- Onset feelings of confusion
- Blueish cast to lips or face
If you have any of the emergency warning signs, seek medical attention immediately.
If you are exposed to coronavirus, the disease has an incubation period between 2 and 10 days. That means it may take up to 10 days before symptoms occur. Please note that, even if you are not symptomatic, if you have COVID-19 you ARE contagious and can pass the disease onto others.
Does Medicare Cover Testing for Coronavirus?
As of March 18, 2020, Medicare Part B covers coronavirus testing when performed by a provider who accepts Medicare. Your cost for the test is $0.
Medicare will cover tests provided after February 4, 2020, although provider reimbursement won’t be available until April 1.
Other COVID-19 Services Covered by Medicare
Your Medicare benefits also cover a variety of coronavirus-related services. This includes:
- Coronavirus vaccine: As yet, there is no vaccine for coronavirus. However, once one is developed, Medicare Part D will cover it.
- Early prescription refills: If you’re worried about refilling your prescriptions in the event of quarantine, talk to your Part D plan administrator to determine whether there any restrictions.
- Inpatient hospital care: Medicare Part A covers a semiprivate room as the standard. However, it covers a private room when deemed medically necessary, such as if you are quarantined.
- Outpatient hospital care: Medicare Part B covers hospital care received on an outpatient basis. This is also true if the hospital keeps you under observation. To receive coverage for skilled nursing facility care, you must first receive inpatient hospital care. Please see our article on hospital observation to understand the full repercussions of observation status.
- Skilled nursing facility care: Medicare Part A covers care received in a skilled nursing facility, assuming you first had a qualifying inpatient hospital stay.
- In-home physician’s services: Medicare Part B covers in-home care provided by a physician, registered nurse, or similar healthcare provider.
If you have a Medicare Advantage plan, it may have different cost sharing than Original Medicare. Contact your plan for specific details.
Debunking Common Coronavirus Myths
If you’ve been on the Internet in the past month, you’ve likely seen at least one email or social media post about coronavirus. And chances are, it contains questionable “facts.”
Myth: Coronavirus won’t survive in hot, humid climates. (Also seen: Cold weather and snow kills coronavirus.)
Fact: Coronavirus can be transmitted in any climate.
Myth: Only older people need to worry about coronavirus.
Fact: Although older people are more susceptible to becoming severely ill if they contract coronavirus, people of all ages have been diagnosed. Other high-risk groups include those with a compromised immune system and patients with certain chronic conditions, such as asthma and diabetes.
Myth: A hot bath protects you against coronavirus.
Fact: No matter how hot the bath water, your internal body temperature remains normal.
Myth: Mosquitos transmit coronavirus.
Fact: There is no evidence that mosquitos transmit coronavirus. This respiratory virus transmits via droplets expelled when a person coughs or sneezes.
Myth: You can diagnose coronavirus with a thermal scanner.
Fact: Thermal scanners are effective at detecting fever. So, if you have a fever because of coronavirus, it may detect that. Of course, you can have a fever for many reasons. In addition, not everyone with coronavirus has a fever. And, again, it can take a week or more for symptoms to occur.
Myth: Spraying or coating your body in alcohol or chlorine will kill coronavirus.
Fact: Covering the outside of your body with alcohol will not kill viruses already inside your body. You can disinfect surfaces with both alcohol and chlorine, but follow directions carefully to avoid injury.
Myth: Hand dryers kill coronavirus.
Fact: Hand dryers cannot kill coronavirus.
Myth: UV lamps kill coronavirus.
Fact: Certain types of UV lamps can be used to kill bacteria on certain surfaces. The coronavirus, though, is a virus, which cannot be killed with UV light. Further, when used on skin, ultraviolet radiation may cause irritation.
Myth: The pneumococcal vaccine protects you against coronavirus.
Fact: No, pneumonia is not caused by the same virus that causes COVID-19. However, doctors still recommend getting the pneumococcal vaccine to protect your respiratory system.
Myth: Saline nasal rinses protect you against coronavirus.
Fact: No, saline rinses neither protect you against coronavirus nor help you recover more quickly.
Myth: Garlic helps prevent coronavirus.
Fact: Although garlic does have some antimicrobial properties, it does not protect people against COVID-19 or any other virus.
Myth: You can treat coronavirus with antibiotics (or other medication).
Fact: Antibiotics do not work on viruses. To date, no medication has been discovered to treat coronavirus.
As we said above, the best way to protect yourself against coronavirus is by frequently washing your hands with soap and water. In between hand washings, try to avoid touching your face. And if you develop symptoms, ask your doctor about coronavirus testing.