NRLN Note: Based on research the NRLN has done, the Kaiser Family Foundation is a highly reliable source of information on major health care issues. (KFF is not part of Kaiser Permanente healthcare plans.) The Senior Vice President of the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation and Director of the Foundation’s Program on Medicare Policy was the guest speaker at the NRLN’s Annual Leadership Conference in Washington, DC in February. Given the expertise of KFF the following article is being shared with NRLN members. If you know someone who has a family member or for friend who is age 65 and older who is receiving treatment for the Coronavirus (COVID-19), you might want to share this information.
FAQs on Medicare Coverage and Costs Related to COVID-19 Testing and Treatment
By Juliette Cubanski & Meredith Freed; Kaiser Family Foundation ~ Mar 30, 2020
More than 60 million people ages 65 and older and younger adults with long-term disabilities are covered by Medicare. Due to their older age and higher likelihood of having serious medical conditions than younger adults, virtually all Medicare beneficiaries are at greater risk of becoming seriously ill if they are infected with the new coronavirus that causes COVID-19. COVID-19 is an infectious respiratory disease, which currently has no vaccine or cure. Diagnosis of COVID-19 is confirmed through testing, and treatment varies based on the severity of illness.
These FAQs review current policies for Medicare coverage and costs associated with testing and treatment for COVID-19, including changes adopted in three recent bills: the Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2020, enacted on March 6, 2020 (Public Law 116-123); the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, enacted on March 18, 2020 (Public Law 116-127); and the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, enacted on March 27, 2020 (Public Law 116-136).
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has a webpage primarily devoted to the Coronavirus COVID-19 in the United States. Click here to access the webpage.
There is an interactive map showing our 50 states. By moving your cursor over a state it shows a range of Coronavirus cases in the state. On the left side of the webpage there is a menu for links to other CDC webpages, such as, How to Prepare; Symptoms & Testing; Frequently Asked Questions, etc.
The Health and Human Services (HHS) website home page has a “Learn More” link for Latest Coronavirus COVID-19 Information. Click here to access the webpage. Scroll down the home page and you will find four additional links with information on Coronavirus COVID-19.
The NRLN is providing the following information on issues related to the Coronavirus pandemic. We hope you are following the Centers for Disease Control guidelines to protect your health. https://www.cdc.gov/
Social Security: Your Social Security benefits will continue to be paid during the Coronavirus crisis. Be aware that scammers may try to trick you into thinking the pandemic is stopping your Social Security payments but that is not true. Don’t be fooled. All local Social Security offices are closed to the public. Read the Social Security Administration press release to learn how to get help from the by phone and online. https://www.ssa.gov/news/press/releases/2020/#3-2020-2
Medicare: Scammers may use the Coronavirus pandemic as a opportunity to try to steal you identity and commit Medicare fraud. The scammers might tell you they’ll send you a Coronavirus test, mask, or other items in exchange for your Medicare number or personal information. Be wary of these requests! Only give your Medicare number to participating Medicare pharmacists, primary and specialty care doctors or people you trust to work with Medicare on your behalf. Remember, Medicare will never call you to ask for or check your Medicare number. It's important to always guard your Medicare card like a credit card and check your Medicare claims summary forms for errors. If you have not signed up for MyMedicare.gov you man want to go to MyMedicare.gov to register. https://www.mymedicare.gov/ MyMedicare.gov is Medicare's free, secure, online service for managing personal information regarding Original Medicare benefits and services. After you create an account it can be used to check information about your coverage, enrollment status, and Medicare claims.
Tax Filing Deadline Extended: The Internal Service Revenue (IRS) has automatically extended from April 15, 2020, to July 15, 2020. Taxpayers can also defer federal income tax payments due on April 15, 2020, to July 15, 2020, without penalties and interest, regardless of the amount owed. Read IRS press release. https://www.irs.gov/newsroom/tax-day-now-july-15-treasury-irs-extend-filing-deadline-and-federal-tax-payments-regardless-of-amount-owed
Medications for Extended Stays at Home: The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) reminded Medicare Part D plan sponsors that they have the option to relax their ‘refill too soon’ restrictions. This is part of efforts to ensure adequate access to medications during the Coronavirus pandemic. Suggest that if you need an emergency refill that you call your pharmacist in advance to make sure he knows about this option.
Telehealth Services: Seniors are allowed to communicate with their doctors without having to travel to a healthcare facility so that they can limit risk of exposure and spread of the Coronavirus. Medicare will temporarily pay clinicians to provide telehealth services for beneficiaries across the entire country. If you want Telehealth services, contact your doctor to get information on how to set up an access portal.
Resources for Veterans: Before visiting local VA medical facilities, community providers, urgent care centers, or emergency departments in their communities, veterans experiencing Coronavirus symptoms—such as fever, cough, and shortness of breath—are encouraged to call their VA medical facility or call MyVA311 (844-698-2311, press #3 to be connected). Veterans can also send secure messages to their health care providers via MyhealtheVet, VA’s online patient portal. https://www.myhealth.va.gov/mhv-portal-web/home. VA clinicians will evaluate veterans’ symptoms and direct them to the most appropriate providers for further evaluation and treatment.
Food Assistance: If you’re looking for help feeding yourself or your family, visit the Feeding America website to find a partner food bank, food pantry, or hot meal program. https://www.feedingamerica.org/find-your-local-foodbank
Whole Foods Market Stores: Add Whole Foods Market stores in the U.S. and Canada to the list of stores we sent earlier . Whole Foods will service customers who are 60 and older one hour before opening to the general public, under the new adjusted hours posted on the local store’s webpage. (For example: if a store’s new hours are 9:00 a.m. – 8:00 p.m., customers who are 60+ can shop starting at 8:00 a.m.) Click here to find your store. https://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/
Scam Alert: The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) launched a Consumer Warnings and Safety Tips webpage to alert consumers to the proliferation of scam phone calls and texts related to the Coronavirus pandemic. Scammers are promoting bogus cures, offering fake test kits, sending hoax text messages, and generally preying on virus-related fears – stay informed and learn how to protect yourself from these scams. https://www.fcc.gov/covid-scams
Having enough food during the Coronavirus crisis is the concern of many Americans. The federal government and the national chain stores that sell groceries are focused on having food available.
H.R. 6201, FAMILIES FIRST CORONAVIRUS RESPONSE ACT: In the March 14 bill passed by the U.S. House of Representatives, passed by the U.S. Senate and signed into law by President Trump on March 18 there is funding for the Food and Nutrition Service to ensure the domestic nutrition assistance programs have adequate resources to help Americans impacted by the COVID-19 public health emergency.
-- The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) – $400 million to assist local food banks to meet increased demand for low-income Americans during the emergency. Of the total, $300 million is for the purchase of nutritious foods and $100 million is to support the storage and distribution of the foods.
-- The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women Infants and Children (WIC) – $500 million to provide access to nutritious foods to low-income pregnant women or mothers with young children who lose their jobs or are laid off due to the COVID-19 emergency.
All of the following stores have implemented programs to clean, sanitize and restock shelves with available products. Please note special shopping hours for seniors (in bold letters) in some major stores. Read more.
(PRESIDENT'S FORUM 3/15/20)
Since practically all NRLN leaders are retired, we are accustomed to doing our research and communications for the NRLN from home. Until our present state of health emergency subsides we will use our online network of resources and contacts through our Regions, Associations, Chapters and our nationwide newsfeeds to filter out whatever Coronavirus information we can to better inform you about the effects of the virus on seniors, hopefully without a lot of duplication.
As you know, the impact of the Coronavirus is having a devastating health and economic impact on many citizens everywhere and the companies and governmental agencies that we all retired from. While we will continue to work on existing legislative issues where possible, we will keep you informed about the effects of the virus as events unfold and your Association and Chapter leaders are monitoring and will keep you informed regarding company and government agency events that might affect you.
Therefore, we will continue to monitor the latest information on the Coronavirus and the response to the crisis by Congress and the White House. The exception to working from home is when the NRLN has a fly-In to Washington, DC to lobby retirement issues on Capitol Hill. Fortunately, our 2020 fly-in to Washington, DC was the last week of February before the surge of the Coronavirus in the U.S. We had not scheduled our usual fall fly-in because it was uncertain when Congress would be in session due to election year campaigns.
As indicated by the email sent to all NRLN grassroots advocates Monday night, NRLN leaders share Americans’ concerns on Coronavirus. In case you missed that email, it provided links to three U.S. government websites: Coronavirus.gov is the source for the latest information about COVID-19 (Coronavirus) prevention, symptoms, and answers to common questions. USA.gov has the latest information about what the U.S. Government is doing in response to COVID-19. Medicare.gov is working to protect you from COVID-19.
We are monitoring these websites and you may also want to access them since this healthcare crisis is rapidly changing. You may also want to monitor important websites, such as:
Rather than repeat local and national news information we hope to offer important information from official sources such as below, from the CDC website:
Watch for symptoms
Reported illnesses have ranged from mild symptoms to severe illness and death for confirmed coronavirus cases. The following symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure.
What to do if you have symptoms:
Who is at higher risk?
Early information out of China, where the Coronavirus first started, shows that some people are at higher risk of getting very sick from this illness. This includes:
Steps to protect yourself
Steps to protect others
The NRLN is monitoring actions by the U.S. House of Representatives, U.S. Senate and the White House in response to the Coronavirus. Last week, the House passed an economic stimulus package that was negotiated with House leaders by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, acting on behalf of President Trump. On Wednesday, March 18, the Senate passed the House’s coronavirus relief package estimated to be worth $100 billion that President Trump signed into law.
An issue of particular interest to the NRLN is that President Trump has called for a 0% payroll tax from now until the end of the year to boost the economy. The Social Security tax rate is 6.2% for employee and 6.2% for employer on wages up to $137,700. The Medicare tax rate is 1.45% each for the employee and employer.Currently, Congress has not bought into eliminating the payroll tax for a specified period.
While taking personal action is critical now, it is also a good time to hope and pray for family and friends, and to strengthen the bonds we share.