The nation’s response to the coronavirus pandemic has included a stay-at-home order for many families across our region. The intent is to keep the disease from spreading too fast and straining medical providers, but how does this impact your access to medications and medical care? We’re sharing the latest updates, and our team will continue to provide the most current information possible as it becomes available. For the latest news on the coronavirus disease and important answers to your coronavirus questions, please visit the official CDC coronavirus website.
The most important thing you can do to manage your own health is to protect it by following the general health guidelines as set forth by the White House, which include important reminders to wash your hands liberally, avoid social gatherings, isolate yourself if you’re feeling ill, disinfecting around your home, and limiting trips to public places. You can also explore the Medicare website for verified information about what The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) is doing to support Medicare beneficiaries during this time.
Accessing Prescription Medications
Prescriptions are vital to the health and wellbeing of millions of Americans, but accessing prescriptions can be complicated in times of restricted travel, especially for seniors and individuals with underlying health complications. CMS has eased many of its rules around prescription medications to allow easier access for Medicare recipients. In particular, CMS has waived prescription refill limits and eased the restrictions on prescription delivery in an effort to keep more seniors safe at home. Similarly, CVS said it would waive prescription delivery charges–and both organizations encourage everyone to have sufficient amounts of medications at home to reduce the number of necessary trips to the pharmacy or in the event you become ill and need to self-quarantine at home.
During the pandemic, CMS is loosening restrictions on drug plans requiring you to fill prescriptions at preferred pharmacies or mail-order pharmacies. Please note, however, that this is not an across-the-board change, so be sure to check with your prescription medication insurance provider before attempting to fill your prescription at a new location. Because leading health experts recommend that all individuals have a 90-day supply of medication available at home (in an effort to reduce trips out of the house, especially for seniors), the CARES Act includes a provision that requires all Part D and Medicare Advantage plans to fulfill 90-day supplies of covered medications to enrollees.
Feeling Ill but Stuck at Home? Medicare Will Cover Telemedicine
To help widen the net for individuals seeking care during the coronavirus pandemic, the Trump Administration signed an $8.3M bipartisan coronavirus-relief bill that permits Medicare to cover telemedicine for a much larger group of beneficiaries. Prior to this legislation, Medicare-covered telemedicine was limited to primarily rural areas where access to care is limited. Under the coronavirus bill, Medicare beneficiaries can receive care from any doctor (not just visits that are related to the novel coronavirus) via phone or video at no additional cost as a way to expand care during this time while also keeping more people at home–especially individuals over the age of 65. This is particularly impactful for beneficiaries enrolled in Original Medicare plans. If you are enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan, you may already have access to telemedicine benefits, so consult your insurance company for details.
Are COVID-19 Tests Covered? Your Benefits Questions
This month, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services determined that the test for COVID-19 is an essential health benefit, which means Medicare and Medicaid will cover the cost of the test for beneficiaries who are suspected to carry the virus. All tests must be ordered through a doctor, so you cannot order the test directly as an individual. For Medicare Advantage plans, the agency is requiring them to waive cost-sharing for testing of COVID-19 and permitting them to cover cost-sharing for treatments, including telehealth visits.
If you are feeling ill, contact your primary care provider. They will give you guidance as to whether you need to get tested for the coronavirus. If you don’t feel well but are able to stay home and care for yourself, it’s not a requirement to get tested for COVID-19. You may, with your doctor’s approval, stay home and self-quarantine for 14 days to reduce the strain on healthcare providers and hospitals. If, at any point, you experience increased difficulty breathing, contact your primary care provider right away or go to the emergency room.
Finding Relief or Assistance for Emergencies
If you have been financially impacted by the coronavirus pandemic, you are not alone. Hundreds of thousands of Americans are unemployed and stock markets have taken drastic hits. There are resources available to help if you or your family are facing uncertain times ahead. The New York Times is keeping a running list of assistance available and you can also reach out to your local Community Action Agency for information about additional financial resources available for qualifying Ohioans.
RetireMEDiQ will share more information about the novel coronavirus with you as we learn more from trusted resources.
If you are not yet a RetireMEDiQ client and have questions about what this may mean for you as you approach Medicare, contact our team of expert advisors at 1-855-981-8611.