Health Insurance Matters: CORONAVIRUS

By Harry Thal
Special to the Sun

This was sent to me this week from CMS (Medicare):

You’ve likely heard about the Coronavirus (officially called “2019-Novel Coronavirus” or “COVID-19”) in the news. While there isn’t a vaccine yet and the immediate health risk remains low, Medicare is still here to help.

Your Medicare Part B (Medical Insurance) covers a test to see if you have Coronavirus. This test is covered when your doctor or a health care provider orders it, if you get the test on or after February 4, 2020. You usually pay nothing for Medicare-covered clinical diagnostic laboratory tests.

To prevent the spread of this illness or other illnesses, including the flu:
• Wash your hands often with soap and water,
• Cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze,
• Stay home when you’re sick, and
• See your doctor if you think you’re ill.

Note: Your provider will need to wait until after April 1, 2020, to submit a claim to Medicare for this test.

As some readers may know, my family and I will be taking a vacation overseas this summer. The situation with the Coronavirus is on my mind all the time, as we make plans for the trip with the airlines. On March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) announced that research now shows that hot and humid climates don’t tend to make a difference. It was thought that the COVID-19 virus might die off as the temperature outside warmed, like the flu viruses. We have seen pictures of people wearing masks. I have learned from many sources, including the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) that the use of these masks does not prevent you from catching the virus.

BUT, and here is a big but, I will be encouraging family to wear the masks when we are out in crowded airports and planes. Why, because of what directions medical people are giving, like “cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze.” Okay, so an infected person covers themselves; walks up/down the stairs using the handrail. You then walk up/down the stairs and hold on to the rail. If you then touch your face, you may have infected yourself. I do believe wearing the mask will help our awareness that we are always rubbing our noses, picking them, or touching our faces. I have read that the virus can survive for up to three days on certain plastic and metal surfaces.

On our trip, I will bring along disinfecting towels to wipe down the tray and surrounding surfaces. Then once we regularly use hand sanitizing, we will be pretty safe.

Many lifetimes ago I worked in the foodservice industry and I learned to sneeze into my shoulder. This is great advice in these current days. Wash your hands frequently and stop picking your nose!

Kate Baggaley reports in Popular Science “People who are infected with COVID-19 start showing symptoms within about 5 days on average of being exposed to the new coronavirus, scientists reported March 10. Researchers analyzed 181 confirmed cases of the disease (both from within China and 24 other countries) and found that around half develop COVID-19 within 5 days of exposure and nearly all people who develop symptoms will do so within 12 days.

Understanding this incubation period—the time between when a virus enters a person’s body and when they start feeling sick—is crucial for health officials trying to make decisions about how to respond to the outbreak.

“As we encourage social distancing and even self-isolation of people who may have been exposed, it’s important to have a good understanding of how long it might take symptoms to appear,” Kyra Grantz, a Ph.D. student in infectious disease epidemiology at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, told Popular Science in an email.

This past Tuesday, March 10, 2020, the White House held a conference attended by the major health insurance companies, including UnitedHealth Group, Anthem, Cigna, Humana, Aetna, and the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association. VP Mike Pence was appointed by President Trump to act as the White House’s Coronavirus lead. At the meeting, “I’m pleased to report that as you requested, Mr. President, that all the insurance companies here, either today, or before today, have agreed to waive all copays on coronavirus testing, and extend coverage for coronavirus treatment in all of their benefit plans,” Pence said while seated next to President Trump and the insurance CEOs.

“We all have the same commitment to making sure that cost is not a barrier to people getting tested and treated,” said Matt Eyles, CEO of the trade group America’s Health Insurance Plans, in the meeting.

I shall try to keep readers posted as new developments are announced.

Harry P. Thal, MA, is a licensed insurance broker in California (0621106) and 24 other states. His offices are in Kernville. He is a member of the Society of Certified Senior Advisors and Past-President of the Kern Association of Health Underwriters. He may be reached at 760-376-2100, e-mail or visit him on the web at

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