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Medicare updates its vaccination COVID-19 FAQs for seniors

The agency is providing a rundown of what to bring to the vaccination sites, what scams to look out for, and what costs might be incurred

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With COVID-19 vaccines becoming more available for people over 65, Medicare has issued new guidance for seniors who are still waiting to get theirs and may have some unanswered questions.

Here is an update on the most important ones.

The pecking order of who gets the shots when

Unfortunately, there’s not a one-size-fits-all answer for when demographic or professional category groups get vaccinated. Each state has its own plan for deciding who will be vaccinated first and how residents can get vaccines. 

The smartest option is to contact your local health department to figure out what group you’re part of and when you might be able to get vaccinated. ConsumerAffairs also found a priority list from the Kaiser Family Foundation that offers a state-by-state overview.

What costs are covered

If you have Medicare Part B insurance or are enrolled in a Part C (Medicare Advantage Plan), you pay nothing. 

For people with only Medicare Part A (Hospital Insurance), the vaccination is still free, but some providers or pharmacies may still charge an administration fee for giving you the shot. Medicare emphasizes that you should check with the provider or pharmacy who gives you the vaccine to determine if they charge this fee.

The reason it’s important to check about costs is that some COVID-19 patients have been surprised with coronavirus testing and treatment.

“It is the American healthcare system, so there are bound to be loopholes we can’t anticipate right now,” Sabrina Corlette, co-director of the Center on Health Insurance Reforms at Georgetown University told the New York Times.

As a quick aside, it might be helpful to know that Medicare also covers COVID-19 tests, COVID-19 antibody tests, and COVID-19 monoclonal antibody treatments.

Forms and credentials to bring to the vaccination site

At the top of the musts to bring to the vaccination site is your red, white, and blue Medicare card -- even if you’re enrolled in a Medicare Advantage Plan or any sort of supplemental plan offered by Humana, AARP, Cigna, Mutual of Omaha or ANY insurance provider. That’s important because it allows your health care provider or pharmacy to bill Medicare.

On top of your Medicare card, you may be asked to fill out a form that may ask for your insurer’s group number. That number is typically part of your insurance ID card. Note: Medicare says that if you have Part B, leave this field blank or write “N/A.” If you have trouble with the form, talk with your vaccine provider.

Don’t get scammed

No good deed goes unpunished, right? There are plenty of COVID-19 scams out there, so seniors have to stay vigilant to avoid being duped. In particular, Medicare says to be alert for scammers trying to steal your Medicare number. 

Remember these four things: 

  • Medicare covers the vaccine at no cost to you and your state decides when you’ll be vaccinated, so if anyone asks you for your Medicare number or tries to collect money from you to get early access to the vaccine, you can bet it’s a scam. 

  • You can’t pay someone or some company to put your name on a list to get the vaccine. 

  • You can’t pay to get priority or early access to a vaccine. 

  • If someone calls, texts, or emails you promising access to the vaccine for a fee, don’t share your personal or financial information.

Things change constantly in the COVID-19 world, and staying on top of the ever-changing landscape can be stressful. ConsumerAffairs suggests signing up for these two email updates to keep you up to date and in the know:

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