• Medicare covers coronavirus antibody testing from Medicare-approved labs under Medicare Part B.
  • Coronavirus antibody tests may show whether a person had the virus in the past.
  • The test typically can’t detect antibodies until it’s been at least 1 to 3 weeks after a person had the new coronavirus.

Antibody tests may show if you’ve had a viral infection. A coronavirus antibody test can help determine whether you previously had the new coronavirus. The new coronavirus causes the COVID-19 disease.

Medicare covers coronavirus antibody testing for its members. If you want to get this test, Medicare will pay for the cost. This means the test should be free to you.

Since this coronavirus antibody test is new, many elements remain unknown. Keep reading to learn more about the test, what to expect if you get it, and which parts of Medicare cover it.

This is a blood test that checks whether you have coronavirus antibodies.

When you have an infection, your body mounts an immune response and creates cells to fight off a virus or bacteria. These cells are called antibodies. For example, if you’ve had measles or chicken pox (or got a vaccine to protect against them), your body should’ve created antibodies to fight the infection.

For the most part, having antibodies can help prevent another infection or severe symptoms if you’re exposed to the virus again at a later time.

These tests can’t usually detect coronavirus antibodies until 1 to 3 weeks after a person contracted the virus. Plus, there’s still so much doctors don’t know about the coronavirus antibody test.

Because multiple forms of coronavirus exist, doctors can’t be sure that a person who tests positive for coronavirus antibodies had the version of the virus (SARS-CoV-2) that causes COVID-19. It’s possible they may have had another form of coronavirus.

Doctors also don’t know how accurate the test is or if having antibodies actually helps protect you from getting the virus again.

They do know that the antibody test can’t tell whether you have an active coronavirus infection. A different coronavirus test, called a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) diagnostic test, can show whether you have the new coronavirus now. Medicare covers that test, too.

Some people have tested positive for antibodies without ever knowing they had the new coronavirus. Currently, doctors believe that some people can have a new coronavirus infection without having noticeable symptoms of COVID-19.

Medicare covers the costs for coronavirus antibody testing. You won’t pay anything for the test. Currently, no copayment is required to get the coronavirus antibody test, as long as you get an FDA-approved test from a Medicare-approved laboratory.

No single coronavirus antibody test exists. Different laboratories have developed their own tests in an effort to help fight the new coronavirus. FDA-approved tests are the ones the FDA has certified as accurate. These tests allow the FDA to track and count the results.

In June 2020, the FDA released some of the results on how accurate it has found the tracked antibody tests to be.

Some of the FDA-approved coronavirus antibody tests include:

  • Abbott Alinity i SARS-CoV-2 IgG
  • Abbott Architest SARS-CoV-2 IgG
  • Autobio Anti-SARS-CoV-2 Rapid Test
  • Cellex qSARS-CoV-2 IgG/IgM Rapid Test
  • Roche Elecsys Anti-SARS-CoV-2

Important note: This list may change as more antibody tests are approved.

Even if a test is approved by the FDA, it’s important to make sure the laboratory performing the test is approved by Medicare. Before you get a coronavirus antibody test, ask whether it’s an FDA-approved test that will be performed in a Medicare-approved facility.

Several pieces of legislation focusing on the pandemic have made coronavirus antibody testing free to those with Medicare and those with private insurance. This includes the Families First Coronavirus Response Act.

If you get an FDA- and Medicare-approved coronavirus antibody test, you shouldn’t have to pay anything. But if you go to a lab that doesn’t work with Medicare or doesn’t use an FDA-approved test, they may charge you. The most cost-effective option is to get tested at a Medicare-approved facility.

If you aren’t sure where you can get a Medicare-approved coronavirus antibody test in your area, contact your local health department. They should be able to provide information about testing sites. You can also contact Medicare at 800-MEDICARE (800-633-4227).

Medicare breaks up coverage into different parts. These parts cover various aspects of care.

For coronavirus antibody testing, this coverage includes:

  • Part A. Medicare Part A is the first half of original Medicare. It pays for hospital and rehabilitation coverage. This part doesn’t traditionally cover coronavirus antibody testing.
  • Part B. Medicare Part B is the second half of original Medicare. It covers medical services like doctors’ visits. Part B does cover coronavirus antibody testing.
  • Part C. Also known as Medicare Advantage, Part C offers combination Medicare plans sold by private insurance companies. Because the government requires Medicare Advantage to cover the same benefits as original Medicare, Part C also covers coronavirus antibody testing.
  • Part D. This Medicare part pays for prescription drugs. So, Part D doesn’t pay for coronavirus antibody testing.
  • Medigap. Also known as Medicare supplement insurance, Medigap helps pay for out-of-pocket costs like copayments and coinsurance. Because coronavirus testing is currently free under Medicare, you won’t need to use Medigap (if you have it) to pay for your testing.

Medicare also pays for the costs for coronavirus tests that detect an active infection. Part B and Part C cover this.

What to expect during a coronavirus antibody test

Coronavirus antibody tests are blood tests. To perform the test, a person will have to draw or collect your blood. Here are some steps you may go through when getting an antibody test:

  • You’ll fill out paperwork to help the FDA, Medicare, and other public health organizations track your results. Your personal information isn’t used, just demographics like your age and the general area where you live.
  • A person will collect blood either by using a finger stick or by drawing it from a vein.
  • Some antibody tests are rapid tests. This means you’ll get your results in minutes. Others are sent to a laboratory, and it may take a few days to get your results.

You don’t have to change anything about your behavior, like not eating or drinking, before the test. The test should be quick and minimally painful.

  • Medicare covers coronavirus antibody testing at no cost if you get an FDA-approved test in a Medicare-approved laboratory.
  • It’s important to remember that you may get a negative result doesn’t mean you don’t currently have the new coronavirus. It’s also possible that it hasn’t been long enough since the infection for your body to build up antibodies.
  • Even if you test positive for coronavirus antibodies, there’s a possibility you could get the virus again.

Read this article in Spanish