Senior citizens - people over 65 - account for 16% of the U.S. population but 75% of deaths from COVID-19, according to the CDC. Doctors say there are even more deaths that are harder to figure among seniors who've been isolated but die from causes that may be related to extended loneliness and isolation.
As we enter a third year of this pandemic, we wanted to know more about its impact on older Americans.
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What group is especially vulnerable to the ravages of COVID-19 even if fully vaccinated and boosted? Seniors. And who will have an especially tough time getting free at-home COVID tests under the Biden administration's plan? Yes, seniors.
As of Jan. 15, private insurers will cover the cost of eight at-home rapid COVID tests each month for their members — for as long as the public health emergency lasts.
Finding the tests will be hard enough, but Medicare beneficiaries face an even bigger hurdle: The administration's new rule doesn't apply to them.
It turns out that the laws governing traditional Medicare don't provide for coverage of self-administered diagnostic tests, which is precisely what the rapid antigen tests are and why they are an important tool for containing the pandemic.
"While at this time original Medicare cannot pay for at-home tests, testing remains a critical tool to help mitigate the spread of COVID," a statement from the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services said. Medicaid and CHIP cover at-home COVID tests, with no cost to beneficiaries, based on a 2021 Biden administration mandate.
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Medicare would cover an expensive and controversial Alzheimer's drug called Aduhelm, but only for those participating in clinical trials, under a proposal announced Tuesday.
The drug is intended for Alzheimer's patients in the early stages of the disease and will be limited to Medicare recipients who are participating in studies by the National Institutes of Health or in approved clinical trials, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services said.
SHOTS - HEALTH NEWSCost and controversy are limiting use of new Alzheimer's drugThe drug is the first treatment approved in the country to slow cognitive decline in those living with the progressive disease. However, medical experts and doctors have refused to prescribe it given the lack of data and evidence about whether it actually slows memory loss.
Given the number of people who might qualify for the drug, health care officials were concerned it could strain Medicare's budget. Anticipation of the drug's costs, following a broad CMS coverage decision, led Medicare to increase premiums for this year.
"CMS has proposed an evidence-based coverage policy after experts reviewed all relevant publicly available evidence and feedback received from stakeholders," CMS Administrator Chiquita Brooks-LaSure said in a statement.
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