6 ways to manage your health during the coronavirus pandemic

During the coronavirus pandemic, health and well-being have been pushed into the national spotlight. In an effort to save hospitals from being overwhelmed with more coronavirus cases than they could manage, federal, state and local governments put precautions in place, forcing individuals to find ways to stay healthy amid new circumstances.
 
For the higher-risk population of retirees, the pandemic caused several impactful changes. Many hospitals preparing for an expected influx of critically ill patients took the rare step of postponing or canceling nonurgent procedures. Even primary care visits have been affected, as medical practices have tried to eliminate contact between patients.
 
Precautions specific to the pandemic may go through cycles of relaxing and ramping back up as the effects of the virus fluctuate, but you should stay vigilant about managing your health. Along with washing your hands and making sure you’re mentally and physically active, here are some things to consider.
 

1. Coronavirus testing is now covered by Medicare

 
A test for the coronavirus and any related services, including an appointment with a doctor that leads to the test, should be covered by Medicare Part B or Medicare Advantage. Additionally, should a vaccine become available, Medicare is required to cover it under Part B as a provision of the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act. There should be no deductible or coinsurance due for the test or the vaccine.
 

2. You should be able to stock up on your prescriptions

 
The CARES act also requires Medicare Part D plans and Medicare Advantage to provide up to a 90-day supply of covered prescriptions. This way, if you’re nervous about being able to go out and refill prescriptions in the future, you can get more of your medication at one time and limit your trips to the pharmacy.
 

3. Get comfortable with telehealth

 
For 2020 and 2021, those who use telehealth services before reaching their deductible will have those services fully covered by their plan provider, thanks to the CARES Act. Medicare has also recently relaxed restrictions on telehealth, and plans now allow you to connect with a range of professionals from your home. Some of the covered services include common office visits for evaluation and health management, mental health counseling and preventive health screenings. Telehealth services allow you to access the professionals you need without having to risk your health or the health of others by traveling to a healthcare facility. Learn more on specific telehealth policies for Medicare recipients during the pandemic.

Why older Americans are considering telehealth

Over half of Americans age 65 or older would consider using a telehealth service. Here's why.
Source:"2019 Senior Consumer Survey Finds 52 Percent of Americans 65+ are Open to Telehealth," business.amwell 2019

4. You can discuss the status of treatments and procedures with your providers

 
The status of your regular treatments and elective procedures likely depends on how providers view the severity of your condition, and these decisions are typically being made by physicians, not by hospital administration or regulations. If you find out that one of your treatments or procedures has been canceled and you have questions, reach out to your care provider to ask about the rationale behind the decision. It could be that they don’t feel that delaying the procedure will be detrimental to your health while they try to keep the hospital and other treatment facilities available for critically ill patients.
 

5. This could influence how you save for healthcare

 
Many recent retirees or those approaching retirement own a health savings account (HSA). While you may no longer be able to contribute to an HSA if you have Medicare, you can still use savings from a previously funded HSA to pay for qualifying healthcare expenses. If you have money in an HSA, remember that some of it may be invested, and you should check the performance of those investments just as you would those in an equity account. Giving your HSA savings the chance to grow through investing may provide you with a better chance of keeping up with rising healthcare costs. Even a little extra earned on your investments could help if the pandemic or another event causes a significant increase in healthcare costs.
 
Your financial advisor can help you understand how these investments fit in with your overall portfolio based on when you may need the money.

Increase the growth potential of your HSA investments

Investing your HSA savings may help you cover future healthcare costs.

6. Take care of yourself—physically and mentally

 
Maintaining your physical health and mental well-being is important and may take extra effort during a time when you don’t have access to exercise facilities, and you may feel socially isolated from friends and family. Build time into your schedule to go for a walk. Many fitness experts and companies are offering free online training classes that you can do at home during the pandemic. When it comes to mental health, make sure you focus on self-care, which could include things like meditation. Videoconferencing can keep you emotionally close to your friends and family, even if you can’t be physically close. If you are struggling emotionally, find a trusted friend or family member to talk to. If that option isn’t available, you can find a variety of resources, which should be covered by Medicare, at mentalhealth.gov.
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