We’re now two years into the pandemic. Hopefully, we’ll be able to put it behind us soon. In the meantime, you may need masks, tests and vaccine boosters. The good news is that you can get all of these for free. Here’s an update on Medicare COVID coverage.
Free At-Home COVID Tests
Back in January, it was announced that private insurers would be required to cover over-the-counter COVID-19 tests that could be used at home. According to CNN, people can get tests from retailers without a prescription and have their insurers pay as of January 15, 2022.
This was great news for many people, but Medicare enrollees weren’t included. Even though seniors have some of the highest risk for COVID, Medicare would not be providing free at-home tests. This left a lot of seniors angry and confused.
Thankfully, CMS listened. In early February, CMS announced that Medicare would start covering at-home COVID tests after all. Starting in early spring, all Original Medicare and Medicare Advantage enrollees will be able to get up to eight over-the-counter COVID tests each month for free. To qualify, the tests must be approved or authorized by the FDA. Medicare beneficiaries will be able to get the tests through eligible pharmacies and certain other participating organizations.
If you need tests before then, you can request four through covidtests.gov.
Free N95 Masks
In addition to free tests, new rules also increase access to free N95 masks. You don’t actually need Medicare coverage – or any health insurance coverage, for that matter – to take advantage of this.
To get your free masks, you just need to stop by a pharmacy that’s participating in the program. Many stores have displays with the masks and signs telling you how many you can take for free. If you don’t see a display, ask an employee if they have any masks. They might be keeping their masks behind the counter. USA Today has a list of participating pharmacies, and it’s pretty long, so you shouldn’t have much trouble accessing your masks.
Free COVID Boosters
The CDC says that COVID-19 vaccines are effective, but the effectiveness can decrease overtime, especially in people above the age of 65. A booster shot may increase your protection against COVID, including the new variants.
Medicare says that it covers that COVID-19 vaccine with no out-of-pocket costs. This includes the initial single dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine or the double dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, as well as the booster. If you got the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, you can get a booster two months after your first shot. If you got the Moderna or Pfizer vaccines, you can get the boost five months after your second dose.
Some people may qualify for an additional dose. Medicare says that people who are immunocompromised may qualify for an additional dose with no out-of-pocket costs at least 28 days after the second dose.
Many pharmacies offer the COVID vaccine. Some allow walk-ins, but others may require appointments. To find a vaccine near you, go to vaccines.gov.
Get the Most from Your Medicare Coverage
The COVID situation continues to evolve. For more Medicare COVID coverage updates, you can check the Medicare & Coronavirus website. If you need help with your Medicare coverage, Medicare Educators is here to help. Contact us today.