Tuesday, May 16, 2023

COVID-19 Updates

Since the Federal Health Emergency ended on May 11, 2023, here’s what you need to know.

Things that will remain the same:

  • COVID-19 vaccines will still be available at no cost
  • For most private insurance, COVID-19 vaccines will be fully covered without a co-pay when provided by an in-network provider
  • Medicare Part B and Advantage plans will still cover COVID-19 Tests ordered by a provider, vaccinations, and oral antivirals
  • Medicaid will still cover COVID-19 Tests, vaccines, and oral antivirals, until 9/30/24. After that coverage will vary by state.
  • Major telehealth flexibilities will not be affected. Most current Medicare telehealth flexibilities will remain in place through December 2024.

Things that will change:

  • If you have private insurance, cost sharing for testing and treatments varies based on the insurance provider
  • Free at-home COVID-19 test kits will end June 30, 2023
  • COVID-19 Community Levels and Community Transmission data will no longer be available

What you can do:

  • Continue to follow all public health recommendations especially those regarding vaccination, masking, testing and isolation when sick.
  • Those who are at high risk for severe disease, or who have frequent contact with someone at high risk, should consult with their physician regarding additional precautions.

Mental Health Awareness Month

Mental health is wealth, especially during Mental Health Awareness Month, which is celebrated every May. This year, Mental Health Awareness Month will amplify the message, “More Than Enough.” According to National Alliance on Mental Illness, this campaign is a message for hope and inclusion; “all people, no matter where they are on their mental health journey, are deserving of support, resources, fulfillment, and a community that cares.” Unfortunately, too many older adults in America are facing a mental health crisis due to lack of access to Medicare providers and needed services. It is essential to raise awareness and elevate our voices to advocate for resources because all of us, no matter our age, deserve support and access to services.

For older adults, mental health awareness and the need for services has increased since COVID -19 pandemic began. The National Coalition on Mental Health and Aging (NCMHA) reported a significant increase of mental health conditions in older adults due to the snowballing effects of social isolation leading to trauma, anxiety, and depression. The global pandemic left profound trauma for many of us. Physical distancing and quarantine have led many older adults and caregivers to feel isolated, lonely, agitated, and withdrawn. Between 25-30% (or 20 million) of older adults have reported mental health challenges since April 2020.

Unfortunately, millions more likely go undiagnosed. While most Older adults have good mental health, among those who don’t, less than 50% of those with mental and/or substance use disorders get treatment.

The NCMHA is dedicated to addressing the problems older adults have in accessing needed mental health services. The Coalition promotes the following strategies to address the current and future shortfall in providers who are trained in geriatrics and mental health:

  1. Exploring incentive programs, including loan repayment programs and increased authorization of graduate medical education payments.
  2. Expanding required training in geriatrics to long-term care nurses and other allied professionals in addressing psychiatric disorders and behavioral symptoms of dementia.
  3. Developing approaches to increasing the number of providers with geriatric mental health training, including: early educational awareness of geriatrics as a potential career path; development of multidisciplinary training in aging and mental health; increasing provider competencies through information-technology mechanisms; and increasing the proportion of educational programs with training in late-life mental health disorders.

In addition to these priorities, advocates for older adults propose modernizing the Medicare program to better address mental wellness. Evidence-based treatments for substance use disorders and even social isolation have been successful at improving mental health. Each of us has a role to play in removing the stigma and communicating with friends and loved ones on this topic. Check out the additional resources to access tools and tip sheets that can help.


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