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AARP Coronavirus Tele-Town Hall From April 14

Experts answer your questions related to COVID-19

Bill Walsh: Hello, I am AARP Vice President Bill Walsh, and I want to welcome you to this important discussion about the coronavirus. Before we begin, if you'd like to hear this telephone town hall in Spanish, press *0 on your telephone keypad now.

(Instructions in Spanish)

Bill Walsh: AARP, a nonprofit, nonpartisan membership organization has been working to promote the health and well-being of older Americans for more than 60 years. In the face of the global coronavirus pandemic, AARP is providing information and resources to help older adults and those caring for them. Despite a recent uptick in new coronavirus cases, there is good news for our COVID-weary nation now in the third year of the pandemic: Hospitalizations and deaths from COVID-19 continue to decline. Still, there is much work to be done and many questions to be answered surrounding boosters, testing, nursing home safety, and how to stay safe and protected as we continue to navigate the changing COVID landscape.

Today we'll hear from an impressive panel of experts about these issues and more. We'll also get an update from Capitol Hill on legislation affecting older Americans. If you've participated in one of our Tele-Town Halls in the past, you know this is similar to a radio talk show, and you have the opportunity to ask your questions live. For those of you joining us on the phone, if you'd like to ask a question about the coronavirus pandemic, press *3 on your telephone to be connected with an AARP staff member, who will note your name and question and place you in a queue to ask that question live. If you're joining on Facebook or YouTube, you can post your question in the comments.

Hello. If you're just joining, I'm Bill Walsh with AARP, and I want to welcome you to this important discussion about the global coronavirus pandemic. We're talking with leading experts and taking your questions live. To ask your question, please press *3, and if you're joining on Facebook or YouTube, you can drop your question in the comments section. We have some outstanding guests joining us today, including the administrator for the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services and the director of the Center for Medicare. We'll also be joined by my AARP colleague Jesse Salinas, who will help facilitate your calls today. This event is being recorded, and you can access the recording at AARP.org/coronavirus 24 hours after we wrap up. Again, to ask your question, please press *3 at any time on your telephone keypad to be connected with an AARP staff member, or if you're joining us on Facebook or YouTube, place your question in the comments.

Now I'd like to welcome our guests. First is Meena Seshamani, M.D. and Ph.D. Dr. Seshamani is the deputy administrator and director of the Center for Medicare. Welcome to the program, Doctor.

Meena Seshamani: Thank you so much for having me, Bill.

Bill Walsh: All right, thanks so much for being here. And later we'll be joined by Chiquita Brooks-LaSure, the administrator for the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, which is commonly known as CMS. And just a reminder, to ask your question, press *3 on your telephone keypad, or drop it in the comments section on Facebook or YouTube.

Let's go ahead and get started. Dr. Seshamani, last week, CMS announced a Medicare coverage for over-the-counter COVID tests at no cost. How do beneficiaries access these free tests?

Meena Seshamani: You know, that's right, Bill. And again, thank you for having me. And I just want to say that the work that we have been doing on over-the-counter COVID tests is indicative of how we want the Medicare program to be able to support all the people who rely on this program. And I say that as a doctor who has taken care of Medicare patients up until very recently, less than a year ago. And so with the over-the-counter COVID tests, we know how important accessing these tests is. And so for the first time in the history of the Medicare program, we are paying for an over-the-counter test at no cost to people with Medicare. So you can get these over-the-counter COVID-19 tests at a pharmacy or health care provider that's participating in this initiative that we've set up. You can get up to eight tests each calendar month, and you won't have to pay anything out of your own pocket for them. Now, you have to get these tests from a pharmacy or other health care provider that's participating. We have tens of thousands of pharmacies participating in this initiative, including the five major national chains and more than 14 pharmacy chains overall. So to find out if your pharmacy is participating, you can contact your local pharmacy, or you can also go to www.medicare.gov/medicare-coronavirus to find out if the pharmacy near you is participating so that you can get those free tests.

Bill Walsh: OK, fantastic. And I believe that URL was www.medicare.gov/medicare-coronavirus. Is that correct?

Meena Seshamani: That's right. And when you go to get your tests, bring your red, white and blue Medicare card. Even if you have a Medicare Advantage plan or a Medicare Part D, plan that red, white and blue Medicare card is what will enable you to get these free tests. And if you have any questions about any of this, you can also call 1-800-MEDICARE. We're always available to answer questions related to the over-the-counter tests or about any other questions you may have with the Medicare program.

Bill Walsh: OK, Doctor, thanks for that. I wanted to follow up and ask you if a Medicare beneficiary is homebound and can't get to the pharmacy, how do they get the Medicare covered tests?

Meena Seshamani: Bill, that's a great question. You know, we are working with pharmacies and other providers to see if they can offer tests through a variety of means, including online ordering. And so this is where contacting your local provider and pharmacy to see if that's an option for you is very important. And additionally, you can visit COVIDtests.gov to get up to two sets of four at-home tests per household. So again, as you mentioned, Bill, [visit] the website to see where a pharmacy is participating in our initiative, but also remember that there's COVIDtests.gov to be able to get free over-the-counter tests delivered to your house, and you can get four tests per household, two times.

Bill Walsh: Very good. Great accessibility to testing. Thanks for that, Doctor. Let me shift gears a little bit. Adjustments by Congress and CMS during the pandemic led to regulatory flexibility and new or expanded care options. What changes that were made in the past two years are going to remain with Medicare beyond the pandemic?

Meena Seshamani: Yeah, it is absolutely true that the pandemic really has seen a change in the way that care is delivered. You know, where everyone really came together with tremendous partnerships to be able to keep our community safe and healthy, to really bring care to them, to make sure that people had access to care, especially when it was more difficult to be able to, for example, get to a doctor's office. You know, the initiative we just talked about, being able to provide over-the-counter tests, is just one example of how the Medicare program has stayed responsive and agile. You know, we have also provided additional payment for at-home vaccine administration, again, to try to make sure that we're reaching those people who need the most support during this time. We've also stayed responsive with the new therapeutics that have emerged with oral antivirals, monoclonal antibodies. And so this will continue to be a theme and a focus for us moving forward. We really want to make sure that you, the 63 million people who are in the Medicare program, are the center of everything that we do. We want to do everything we can to make sure that you are getting high-quality care that's really considering all of your needs, that we are addressing any disparities in health care and promoting health equity, and that we're continuing to make a program that's affordable and sustainable for all of you.

Bill Walsh: OK. Now, one of the developments during the pandemic is that telehealth is more widely used and has some distinct benefits, even with the resumption of in-person care, notably for people in rural [areas] or people who are homebound. Congress recently expanded telehealth availability for most of 2022, but it's not guaranteed indefinitely. What's the future of telehealth for Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries?

Meena Seshamani: Yeah, Bill, you are correct, that one thing that has emerged during the pandemic is how much the use of telehealth has grown. And in fact, a recent report from the Department of Health and Human Services, which is where CMS sits, showed a 63-fold increase in telehealth use for people with Medicare in 2020, because, again, as we wanted to make sure that people continue to have access to care when they could not necessarily go to the doctor's office. And I'll say that as a physician, I saw that myself. I was seeing patients through telehealth in 2020 and 2021. And I know that being able to access telehealth can be very important for access to care, to improve people's quality of life. And so some actions that we're taking, for example, we have made, following congressional action, telehealth payments permanent for behavioral health for after the pandemic. Because, again, we know that the largest increase in telehealth use has occurred with behavioral health. And we also know that we have a behavioral health crisis, and we need to make sure that we are providing access for these services. And so, following the congressional action, those payments will be permanent after the public health emergency. And we'll continue to look at ways that we can make sure that innovations are really driving those things that I mentioned, being able to support all of you, the people who rely on the Medicare program, so that you can get the best care possible.

Bill Walsh: OK, very good. And when you say behavioral health, I assume you're talking about mental health services, is that correct?

Meena Seshamani: Correct.

Bill Walsh: OK.

Meena Seshamani: Mental health services we want to make sure, for substance use disorder, we are doing everything we can to support people with their health journeys.

Bill Walsh: OK. Well, very good. Let's hear from our listeners. It's time now to address your questions about the coronavirus with Dr. Meena Seshamani. As a reminder, press *3 at any time on your telephone keypad to be connected with an AARP staff member to share your question live. And if you'd like to listen in Spanish, press *0 at any time on your telephone.

(Instructions in Spanish)

Bill Walsh: And now I'd like to bring in my AARP colleague Jesse Salinas to help facilitate your calls today. Welcome, Jesse.

Jesse Salinas: So glad to be here, Bill.

Bill Walsh: All right, who is our first caller?

Jesse Salinas: Our first question is from Facebook. It's from a lady named Angelee, and she says she's read that the second booster is only effective for about four weeks. If you're 65 and in good health, should you wait to get your booster or should you be getting it now?

Bill Walsh: Doctor, can you field that one for us?

Meena Seshamani: Yeah, absolutely. You know, the most important thing you can do to avoid getting seriously ill from COVID-19 is staying up to date on all of your vaccinations, and this includes that second booster dose. You know, ultimately the CDC's website has the most current information on things, but generally adults 50 years and older, really, we recommend that you get that second booster dose.

Bill Walsh: Very good. Thank you very much, Doctor. Jesse, who's next in line?

Jesse Salinas: Yeah, our next question is also from Facebook. This is from Kyle in Virginia, and he asked, "How do things like clinician burnout or staff shortages, things that are kind of fueled by the pandemic, impact the care for Medicare or Medicaid beneficiaries?"

Bill Walsh: That's a great and timely question. Doctor, can you address that?

Meena Seshamani: Yeah, I mean, this is something that we are definitely focused on, not just in CMS but also the department and the administration as a whole. You may have seen that one of our sister agencies, the Health Resources and Services Administration, has distributed grants for workplace wellness to try to address some of these issues with burnout. And I think where we are able to, again, bring it all back to why we all went into health care in the first place, to really care for people, and where we can make sure that we're setting up programs that create these team-based approaches to care that enable people to care for their communities. That can also certainly help with some of the issues that we're facing now.

Bill Walsh: OK. Thanks very much. Jesse, let's go back to the phone lines. Who do we have next?

Jesse Salinas: Yep, our next one is from Sandy from YouTube. And she says she's tried all week to get the free COVID test and she couldn't find a pharmacy that would honor it with her card. She tried a CVS and Walgreens. Do you have any ideas on how she should navigate this?

Bill Walsh: Doctor, can you field that one?

Meena Seshamani: Absolutely. Yes, absolutely, and thank you for raising that to our attention. You know, CVS and Walgreens are in our initiative. And what I would recommend is calling 1-800-MEDICARE and let us know that, because we will be sure to work with our pharmacy partners to make sure that you can get access.

Bill Walsh: Hmm. I mean, generally speaking, I recall it was maybe a month or two ago where we were seeing a real shortage of in-home COVID tests. Has the supply nationwide improved?

Meena Seshamani: I will say that in Medicare, we're not necessarily responsible for the supply. So I would defer to experts on that. But what I will say is that we are all working as hard as we can to make sure that we have access. And that's why setting up this initiative to pay for over-the-counter tests was so important.

Bill Walsh: OK, very good. Jesse, who do we have up next?

Jesse Salinas: Yep, our next question is from Jim in Illinois.

Bill Walsh: Hey, Jim, welcome to the program. Go ahead with your question.

Jim: Thank you. Yeah, my question was, if we took a home test and received a positive indication on it, should we follow up with a test from, like, one of those drive-through locations to validate the test?

Bill Walsh: Thanks for that, Jim. Doctor, next steps if one gets a positive test result?

Meena Seshamani: Yeah, I would say definitely. The CDC website and talking to your local physician are the most important steps when you have a positive test to make sure that you're doing everything that you can to, you know, quarantine and isolate, so as not to spread to others. And also to make sure that you take care of yourself in the best way possible as you recover. And I really wish you a speedy recovery.

Bill Walsh: OK, thanks very much for that. Jessie, who do we have up next?

Jesse Salinas: Our next question is going to come from a Nate in Illinois.

Bill Walsh: Hey, Nate. Welcome to the program. Go ahead with your question.

Nate: We're getting calls every day from people saying sign up now for a new health care Medicare program. Does this program that we're talking about today have anything to do with signing up? Are we signing up for health care?

Bill Walsh: Hmm. Can you address that, Doctor?

Meena Seshamani: Yes, and thank you for raising this question because it presents a good opportunity for me to let all of you know: Medicare will never call you. If someone is calling you and asking for your Medicare number, you should hang up. We are working very hard for you to prevent kind of deceptive marketing tactics and to make sure that you get accurate and accessible information about your Medicare coverage. But we want to make sure that you are not giving your Medicare number to anybody who calls you, because there are people, unfortunately, who are doing scams, and we want to try to protect you as much as possible from that.

Bill Walsh: OK, very good. I want to thank our listeners for all those questions, and we're going to get back to your questions shortly, and as a reminder, if you'd like to ask a question, press *3 on your telephone keypad at any time. Dr. Seshamani, about 48 million individuals provide unpaid care to an adult family member or a friend. We refer to these folks as family caregivers. What's the importance of family caregivers, and how does CMS support those who help older adults remain in their homes?

Meena Seshamani: Bill, thank you for that question. You know, family caregivers have always been such an important part of our community and how we're supporting people with Medicare. And I think that really came to the forefront with the pandemic. We really want to make sure that we're providing care that's holistic, that's connecting everyone who is caring for you, and that includes people in your household who are caring for you. And so where are there ways that we can work with your doctor, with your nurse, with your pharmacist, with other providers to make sure that they're also connecting with your family and that we are using all approaches to make sure that you are staying healthy and that your family also is being supported as they care for you.

Bill Walsh: OK. Talking about family caregivers, what's the value of caregivers, both emotionally and financially, in providing care for a Medicare beneficiary?

Meena Seshamani: Absolutely family caregivers play a critical role. And I say that as a doctor, as a daughter with parents on Medicare, as a mom of two kids, you know, being a caregiver takes many different avenues for many of us. And so, again, really thinking about the people who are in the Medicare program as people, not necessarily just as a patient with a diagnosis who's coming in for a specific office visit, but as somebody who lives in a household, who lives in a community, and really thinking about all the ways that we can make sure that we are caring for you in the best way possible. And this comes back to some of the initiatives that we have. For example, we have these things called accountable care organizations where doctors and other caregivers come together to really provide high-quality care to keep people healthy so they can be at home and have a high quality of life. And we're trying to grow these kinds of programs that can then also include other types of people, like community health workers and care managers, who can make sure that you have good access to food, for transportation, help with housing, because we know there are many things that can impact someone's health, and we want to make sure that we are tackling everything together. And you know, this also comes back, Bill, to what we were talking about earlier, where we were talking about telehealth for mental health services, where we can make sure that you can access care through your telephones, especially if you live in a rural area and don't have broadband. These are all the kinds of things that we're thinking about in the Medicare program, because we are keeping those 63 million people front and center of everything that we do.

Bill Walsh: OK, thank you, Dr. Meena Seshamani, the director of the Center for Medicare. We are going to pose more questions to her in a moment, and we're going to take more live questions shortly. As reminder to our listeners, to get in the queue to ask your question live, press *3 on your telephone keypad, or drop your question in the comments section on Facebook or YouTube. Right now, I want to bring in Nancy LeaMond. Nancy is the executive vice president and chief advocacy and engagement officer at AARP. She's going to update our listeners about how AARP is fighting for them. Welcome, Nancy.

Nancy LeaMond: Hi, Bill, glad to be here.

Bill Walsh: All right. We're glad to have you. What's the latest news on the advocacy front?

Nancy LeaMond: Well, lowering prescription drug prices continues to be our top priority. Recent polling shows this is the number one health issue Americans want Congress to tackle this year. And it's our number one issue too. AARP has called for lower drug prices for years, and we're pushing for lawmakers to allow Medicare to negotiate drug prices, put a cap on out-of-pocket costs that older adults pay for their prescription drugs, and impose penalties on drug companies that raise prices faster than the rate of inflation.

Bill Walsh: It seems we're finally on the cusp of seeing prescription drug price relief, and I know AARP members are out there in force pushing their senators to take action.

Nancy LeaMond: They sure are. Congress has promised for years that they would address the skyrocketing price of prescription drugs. And we have never been this close to major prescription drug reform. More than 80 percent of voters across parties support these changes that would help families afford medications and save taxpayers billions of dollars each year. The House has already passed a bill with AARP's top priorities. And this week, AARP members are calling their senators to urge action, and we're delivering petitions signed by more than 4 million Americans. Seniors are sick and tired of paying the highest prices in the entire world for their medicines, and they're demanding change.

Bill Walsh: All right. Now, as we discuss Medicare today, we're thrilled to hear about the increased access to free COVID tests.

Nancy LeaMond: Yes, we are so pleased to have the CMS leaders as our special guests today. We applaud their work to ensure Medicare beneficiaries can easily receive free at-home COVID tests from their pharmacies. Testing is a crucial part of managing the spread of the virus, and it helps seniors feel safer to go out and engage with their families and communities. AARP will continue to work with the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to make sure older Americans have access to care, treatment and support throughout this pandemic.

Bill Walsh: You know, we're also relieved to hear about the progress being made in protecting nursing home residents around the country.

Nancy LeaMond: Absolutely. You know, since the beginning of the pandemic, AARP has been shining a spotlight on the crisis in America's nursing homes, and we've been fighting for reform. No one has been more vulnerable to the perils of COVID than nursing home residents. And so we're pleased to see movement to keep residents safer. Federal agencies have regularly updated public data on COVID-19 cases, deaths, vaccination and booster rates for nursing home residents and staff. And there is also now information on weekend staffing levels and staff turnover on Medicare Care Compare website, so loved ones can see how nursing homes are doing. We're also encouraged by the administration's proposed new actions to ensure there's proper staffing and residents in nursing homes, and that they will receive safe, quality care, the kind of care they deserve. We support these changes and appreciate the agency's efforts to consider public input on these issues. And again, I want to personally thank Administrator Brooks-LaSure, who I know is joining us soon, and Dr. Seshamani for being with us today. And not only for being with us today, but for working very closely with AARP on all issues, not just related to COVID in nursing homes, but all of the Medicare issues that affect our constituency every single day.

Bill Walsh: OK, and to find that website that Nancy just referenced, folks can go online and search “Medicare Care Compare.” Nancy, thanks so much for being with us today.

Nancy LeaMond: Thank you, Bill.

Bill Walsh: And as Nancy mentioned, we're going to be joined shortly by Chiquita Brooks-LaSure, the administrator for the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, but until then, we're going to go back to our phone lines and take questions from our listeners. A reminder to all of you: If you'd like to ask a question, just go ahead and press *3 on your telephone keypad. Jesse, who do we have next in the queue?

Jesse Salinas: Next one is from Shirley in Massachusetts.

Bill Walsh: Hey, Shirley. Welcome to our program. Go ahead with your question.

Shirley: Yes, hi. My question today is I received eight in-home test kits that I signed up for and got it through the post office. So I was wondering how you would store the kits, and what if I never use it and I just need to store it? Do I put it in a cabinet? Do I put it in the refrigerator? And is there shelf life on these kits also?

Bill Walsh: Thank you very much for that question. Doctor, that's a great question. What about storage and shelf life of these at-home tests?

Meena Seshamani: Yes, thank you, Shirley, for your question. I would refer to the box. On the box of the test it should tell you how long the test is good for. They have a date on it. And also, it will tell you the temperature range at which the test can be stored. Generally speaking, the tests can just be stored in a cabinet, but again, I would refer you to the box, and look specifically for the storage instructions there of the temperature range, and also the box should have a date on it by which you should use the tests.

Bill Walsh: OK, very good, and maybe I can get you, Doctor, to repeat some of the information you provided at the outset of the program. It sounded like Shirley had gotten her eight free tests, but there are tests also available for free through Medicare, is that right?

Meena Seshamani: That's correct. So what Shirley was referring to is if you go to COVIDtests.gov, you can get four tests per household up to two times, so that comes to eight tests. So that's COVIDtests.gov, and the post office will send you tests in the mail to your house. The other program that we have is where you go to a pharmacy that's participating in our initiative, show your red, white and blue Medicare card, and you can get up to eight tests per calendar month, and Medicare will be paying the pharmacy for those tests. So you don't have to pay any money. You show your red, white and blue Medicare card, you can get the tests, and we pay the pharmacy for those tests. So there are two different ways. We're trying every avenue we can to be able to get tests to all of you.

Bill Walsh: OK, very good. Thank you so much for that, Doctor, and thank you for your calls. We're going to be taking more listener calls shortly. I'd now like to welcome Chiquita Brooks-LaSure, who is the administrator for the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. Administrator Brooks-LaSure oversees Medicare, Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance program, and healthcare.gov Health Insurance Marketplace. Welcome, Administrator. Thanks so much for being with us today.

Chiquita Brooks-LaSure: Oh, thank you for having me. It's a pleasure to be here.

Bill Walsh: All right. Let's dive right into questions, if that's OK. The FDA recently authorized and the CDC recommends a fourth dose of the Pfizer and Moderna COVID vaccines for people ages 50 and older. Who should get a fourth shot, and when, and what else should our listeners know?

Chiquita Brooks-LaSure: Well, it's really exciting that we have COVID-19 vaccines, right? Like, two years ago, where were we? And thank goodness we're in the position where we have vaccines. And vaccines, which include boosters, have been our defense in the fight against this virus. And so we just strongly encourage everyone to get vaccinated and then to get boosted if you're over the age of 50 years old. I'm just a little shy, so I'm waiting for it to be prescribed for us. But if you're over 50, you can get a second booster at least four months after you've gotten your first booster. And the CDC website is a wonderful resource to have the most current information about how to stay up to date on your vaccinations. And so I strongly encourage you to look to the CDC website for the latest up-to-date information on getting boosted, getting vaccinated and all of the things we need to know about COVID.

Bill Walsh: OK, very good. And as a reminder, that website is CDC.gov. Let me follow up on that very quickly. I wonder about those folks who received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine or who may be immunocompromised and younger than 50. What is the guidance for them at this point?

Chiquita Brooks-LaSure: So, it depends a little bit on your health, and people who are moderately or severely immunocompromised have specific COVID-19 vaccination recommendations. And so if you fall into that category, you certainly want to pay really close attention to what CDC is recommending. If you've gotten the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, you can get a second dose of either Pfizer or Moderna and a booster at least two months after that second dose. So first go get a dose of Pfizer or Moderna if you want, and then after that you can get a booster. But again, the best source of information is to make sure to go to the CDC if you have any questions.

Bill Walsh: OK, very good. Let me shift gears and talk about what Medicare and Medicaid cover in this regard. I wonder if there are circumstances where someone with Medicare or Medicaid should pay an out -of-pocket cost for a COVID vaccine, such as a copay, a deductible or a fee to administer.

Chiquita Brooks-LaSure: No. The vaccine, if you have Medicaid/Medicare, is free for you.

Bill Walsh: OK, very good to know, and is a Medicare number required to receive a vaccine or booster, or is this another scam?

Chiquita Brooks-LaSure: You might be, as a Medicare beneficiary, you might be asked to show your card or to give your number, but that's only because your provider— the pharmacist, the physician — can bill Medicare, but you yourself are not going to have to pay anything out of pocket. And just a reminder: Medicare will never call you, and you should never give out your Medicare number over the phone.

Bill Walsh: OK. Great advice. Thank you for that. Now, turning our attention to funding. Congress is currently working on additional funding for COVID-19 testing, treatment and vaccines. Why is a COVID funding deal so important? What's at risk if it's delayed or reduced?

Chiquita Brooks-LaSure: The administration has made clear to Congress that additional funds are going to be needed for tests, for treatments and vaccines to sustain our COVID-19 response. We are hopefully on the tail end of this, but we are not through the COVID-19 challenge. And so we think as the administration, it's so important to get this additional funding. Without it, fewer treatments, so the monoclonal antibodies which are treating COVID-19, we might not be able to send as much to the states, and it will hamper the government's ability to purchase these additional treatments. Secondly, fewer tests are going to be available to Americans, and as you know, being able to test is crucial to making sure that we can contain and control COVID-19 infections. It would mean less surveillance for future variants, but we don't know how the how the virus will continue to mutate, and we want to be prepared if there are variants in the future. And finally, we're at risk of running short on vaccines if we don't receive additional funding to help support these efforts.

Bill Walsh: OK, so it sounds like that funding deal is really critical to consumers all around the country. All right, well, thanks so much for that. Now, let me shift gears again. The public health emergency declared in January of 2020, prior to COVID's spread across the U.S., was set to expire this week but will receive a 90-day extension. What's been the role of the public health emergency declaration for more than two years, and what does the extension mean for people?

Chiquita Brooks-LaSure: So a number of flexibilities and requirements are tied to the public health emergency. Some of the important ones, the flexibilities that come from the public health emergency, have been that CMS has been able to let states and providers suspend some of their requirements to make sure they could deal with the increased demand for coverage and care during the pandemic. As we all know, during [the pandemic] providers have been on the front lines, and so there've been important flexibilities, telehealth flexibilities, and we are in the process of evaluating these flexibilities to see what's worked, what hasn't. The other very important piece that is related to the public health emergency is coverage in our program. We are at record numbers of enrollment in Medicaid and CHIP and our other programs, the three Ms, as I like to say, marketplace and Medicare coverage. And part of that has been because the public health emergency has meant that more people are eligible, have been staying on the Medicaid program. And so one of the things that we are very focused on is making sure that we continue to evaluate the reforms and changes, like telehealth, that have proven to be very effective, and also really making sure that we maintain those coverage levels.

Bill Walsh: OK, very good.

Chiquita Brooks-LaSure: I was just going to add that if there's any more information that people want to know about what we're doing and how the Medicare program is changing, of course, please feel free to go to our website, www.medicare.gov.

Bill Walsh: OK, thank you so much for that. Now it's time to address more of your questions with Chiquita Brooks-LaSure, the administrator for the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, and Dr. Meena Seshamani, who is the director of the Centers for Medicare. As a reminder, go ahead and press *3 at any time on your telephone keypad to be connected with an AARP staff member and get into the queue to ask your question live. Jesse, who do we have next on the line?

Jesse Salinas: Yep, our next call is going to be Maria from Massachusetts.

Bill Walsh: Hey, Maria. Welcome to the program. Go ahead with your question.

Maria: Yeah, hi. Yeah, thanks for the excellent program. So I'm wondering, is Medicare currently paying for antivirals and/or monoclonal antibodies should they be needed by folks? And question number two, short, is relating to what was just discussed, is telehealth still being covered now for others other than behavioral health or not? Thank you.

Bill Walsh: Thank you very much, Maria. Maybe Dr. Seshamani wants to weigh in on that, and if the administrator wants to add something, you surely can. Doctor?

Meena Seshamani: Yeah, thank you, Bill, and thank you, Maria, for your question. So first on the oral antivirals and monoclonal antibodies, Medicare is paying for monoclonal antibodies. For oral antivirals, that's where we have encouraged the Medicare Part B plan to pay a reasonable dispensing fee to the pharmacies and to cover the oral antivirals as well. So we continue to make access to these therapeutics a priority in the response to the pandemic. To your second question, all the telehealth flexibilities are still in effect. What we were referring to earlier was for behavioral health, for mental health. After the public health emergency is over, that will continue. But right now we are still in the public health emergency. Also, Congress extended all of the telehealth flexibilities, so all of those are indeed still in effect.

Bill Walsh: OK, very good. Thank you so much for that, Doctor. Jesse, who is next on the line?

Jesse Salinas: Our next call is going to be Jean from New York.

Bill Walsh: Hey, Jean. Welcome to our program. Go ahead with your question.

Jean: OK. I have a relative who's in a nursing home. And currently the rule is you have to be tested 24 hours before you can visit the nursing home. They do not accept an at-home test. Is that rule still going to hold steady, because it's more difficult to just always get a 24-hour test. So is that going to change anytime soon?

Bill Walsh: Great question, Jean. Let's ask the administrator about that. Administrator, can you answer that question?

Chiquita Brooks-LaSure: Sure. So just to say, this is one of the things that we really learned during the pandemic is how important it is for residents to be able to see their families. And we have wanted to make sure that that protection is in effect. One of the things that the nursing home should be doing is making it easy for you to see family members. And so we do allow facilities to have some requirements around testing, but I would love to, if we can find a way, for us to follow up and to better understand what the requirement is at the nursing home you're describing, to make sure that they're making tests available, if they're not accepting at-home tests.

Bill Walsh: Hmm. I wonder if this is a case where Jean or others should reach out to their nursing home ombudsman and pursue it through that avenue as well.

Chiquita Brooks-LaSure: Oh yes, of course, please. That's such a great suggestion. So please feel free to do that, and also feel free to contact us.

Bill Walsh: And, of course, Jean and others who are listening, every state has a nursing home ombudsman service, which is free, that's accessible to consumers, and they can help with issues like this. Jesse, let's go back to the lines. Who's next in the queue?

Jesse Salinas: Our next call is Wilamena in Virginia.

Bill Walsh: Hey, Wilamena, welcome to our program. Go ahead with your question.

Wilamena: Thank you. I'm talking about the self-tests at-home results. A little while back, they had a recall on them. Is this still in effect? I've heard so much. I know the doctor has addressed this, but I'm not clear on what's going on.

Bill Walsh: Hmm. Might be a little bit out of the purview of our guests today, but I wonder if Dr. Seshamani can address that — a recall on in-home tests.

Meena Seshamani: Yeah, thank you so much for the question. The initiative that we've been talking about of getting eight over-the-counter tests per calendar month applies for any FDA-approved tests. And so, when you go to the pharmacy to get your tests, you can certainly talk to the pharmacist, and you can see what tests they have available, because it is those FDA-approved tests that will be part of the program.

Bill Walsh: OK, but we haven't heard anything about a recall of any of these at-home tests?

Meena Seshamani: That I do not, I would defer. We can, we can probably follow up and see, but basically what is available in the pharmacies are FDA-approved tests.

Bill Walsh: FDA-approved tests. Very good. OK, well, thank you to our listeners for those questions. We'll be taking more of those questions shortly. And as a reminder, to ask your question, press *3 on your telephone keypad at any time. Let's turn back to our experts for a moment. Chiquita Brooks-LaSure is the administrator for the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. Administrator, approximately a quarter of all U.S. deaths from COVID-19 are from nursing home residents and staff. Family want to know if their loved ones are safe and if staff are protected. What resources are available to help provide information about a facility's quality or staff vaccination rates?

Chiquita Brooks-LaSure: This is a huge priority for the administration, and as you described, so many of the deaths from COVID have been in nursing homes. We have started putting even more information about safety and quality on nursing homes on our website. So you can go to medicare.gov, and then slash, comparecare. And one of the things that we have is the ability of family members to look on that website and see things like vaccination rates of the staff and other quality measures. We just recently started reporting on staff turnover rates, which are, in our experience, an important indicator of quality.

Bill Walsh: OK, very good. Thank you for that, Administrator. Now, with news of staffing shortages at nursing homes around the country, what can families do to ensure that their loved ones aren't ignored or overlooked?

Chiquita Brooks-LaSure: This is, we know, it's been an issue before the pandemic, but it's been one during for a number of reasons, and we are in the process of proposing changes to our staffing requirements. And so we've asked for information; we call it a request for information. And so we're looking at these issues very carefully. The first thing that I would point people to is what you just suggested, which is to really look at your long-term care ombudspeople. They are such a great resource. I met with a few a couple of months ago as we were working through our nursing home recommendations, and just their passion for protecting residents and families is really unmatched. And so really encourage people to reach out there, also because then we really do hear — they feedback to us at the government level about what they're hearing on the ground. And then just really encourage family members to report it if they see inadequate care, because again, that's how we learn about it. That's how we can make changes. And so another avenue to report is your state survey agencies. So each state is responsible for serving nursing homes, and when they receive complaints, it helps them know where to direct their attention.

Bill Walsh: OK, thank you very much for that. It sounds like if there was ever a time for families to be a strong and outspoken advocate for their loved ones in nursing facilities, this is the time to be that advocate. Administrator, during the State of the Union address, the president said significant steps will be taken to address safety and quality in the nation's nursing homes. What are the priorities, and how will families see a difference in care as a result of those changes?

Chiquita Brooks-LaSure: So, the president himself is so focused on long-term care generally, and nursing home quality and safety in particular. And we, as part of the State of the Union, the president working with all of us, we put out a number of initiatives that we're going to be undertaking. One that we think is core is really looking at what should be the minimum staffing requirement for nursing homes. And we're in the process of developing that standard as we get feedback from all sorts of stakeholders. But we really want this approach to be holistic, and some of our goals are ensuring adequate staffing, also holding poor performers accountable, and then lifting up best practices because there are places where we're seeing good care, and we want to make sure that all nursing homes are meeting safety, quality standards. And finally, I would say we're also focused on making sure that ownership information is more transparent, in part, because we want to make sure that families and other advocates know where to go to make sure that there's accountability in some of these changes. So we are in the process of starting to unveil some of these proposals, and very much appreciate the input of everyone with a perspective. And by that I mean we've really been engaging with nursing home residents themselves, with certified nursing assistants and with nurses, as well as the industry, as we try to move forward to improve care in our nursing homes.

Bill Walsh: OK, very good. Thank you so much for that. And we've mentioned a nursing home ombudsman program a couple of times now. One way to find that for our listeners is going to aarp.org and just searching on “ombudsman.” Articles should come up related to how to find a nursing home ombudsman in your state. Now it's time to address more of your questions with Chiquita Brooks-LaSure, the administrator for the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services, and Dr. Meena Seshamani, the director of the Center for Medicare. Please press *3 at any time on your telephone keypad to be connected with an AARP staff member to get in the queue to ask your question live. Jesse, who do we have on the line?

Jesse Salinas: The next caller is going to be Dean from Evergreen.

Bill Walsh: Hey, Dean, welcome to our program. Go ahead with your question.

Dean: Yeah. I had ordered a patch or, what you call it, a testing kit in the mail and it didn't show up. What would be our next steps?

Bill Walsh: OK, Dr. Seshamani, do you want to address that?

Meena Seshamani: Yeah, thank you, Dean, for your question, and I'm sorry to hear that your tests haven't shown up yet. I would say to go to COVIDtest.gov. The other thing is you may have gotten a confirmation number that will enable you to track or follow up, but you know, COVIDtest.gov is the place to go for those tests that are being distributed through the post office.

Bill Walsh: Very good. Thanks so much for that. Jesse, who do we have up next?

Jesse Salinas: Our next caller is Anne from Pennsylvania.

Bill Walsh: Hi, Anne, welcome to our program. Go ahead with your question.

Anne: Hi. I called the Medicare phone number on my Medicare card, it'll be two weeks ago tomorrow, questioning if Medicare was going to pay for me — I'm 66 — to get my second booster. And the person that answered the Medicare line told me that I would only be eligible to get it if I was immunocompromised, and I asked what's the Medicare's definition of immunocompromised. She told me I had to go to my doctor to find out whether I was immunocompromised. And I said, well, isn't my age, 66, isn't that one of the things that they said you were eligible to go get your second booster if it's been four months since your last one? And she was like, no, you have to have immunocompromised situation to get your second booster. So, is this correct? Is she giving me the correct information? And if she's not, can somebody address that with Medicare, that somebody was giving that information out.

Bill Walsh: Anne, thank you so much for that question, and there aren't two people in the country better situated to answer that question than those experts we have on the line today. Dr. Seshamani, you are the head of the Centers for Medicare. Would you like to take that?

Meena Seshamani: Sure, and thank you so much for raising this. In fact, you can go and get a booster; you're correct. With your age, you can go, you can, and you should get a booster if you are four months out from your vaccination. And thank you for raising it as well, because we will make sure to take that back to make sure that everyone who's working in 1-800-MEDICARE Call Center is providing the correct information.

Bill Walsh: OK, thank you so much for that. And we had a caller, Dean, just a moment ago, who had some issue with getting the test kits that he had ordered. I wanted to give him and our other listeners a toll-free number to get those free test kits. It's 1-800-232-0233, that's 800-232-0233. Jesse, who do we have on the line next?

Jesse Salinas: Our next question is from Rose in Texas.

Bill Walsh: Hey, Rose, welcome to our program.

Rose: Yes, I just received my second booster shot. All the shots were from the Moderna, and I gave the nurse my COVID-19 vaccination record card. Now the whole front of it is filled up. What's going to happen when we get our other shot?

Bill Walsh: OK. Do either of our guests have any answer for that? It sounds like Rose's vaccination record card is about to be filled up.

Chiquita Brooks-LaSure: Yes, this is the administrator. This is an issue that we are flagging with our colleagues at HHS. CMS does not create the vaccination cards, but we are aware of it. And we will make sure that our sister agencies creates a plan.

Bill Walsh: OK, thank you so much for that, Administrator, and just one other resource for our listeners. There's been a lot of talk today about nursing homes and, you know, checking on vaccination levels, et cetera. AARP has a very good resource for folks to check that out for free. And you can find that resource at our website. That website is aarp.org/nursinghomedashboard. Go there to find the latest on nursing homes where your loved ones reside.

I want to thank our experts and our listeners, too. This has been a really informative discussion. Thanks to both of our experts for answering our questions today. And thank you, our AARP members and volunteers and listeners, for participating in this discussion. AARP, a nonprofit, nonpartisan membership organization has been working to promote the health and well-being of older Americans for more than 60 years. In the face of this crisis, we're providing information and resources to help older adults and those caring for them protect themselves from the virus, prevent its spread to others while taking care of themselves. All of the resources referenced today, including a recording of today's Q&A event, can be found at aarp.org/coronavirus beginning tomorrow, April 15th. Go there if your question was not addressed, and you'll find the latest updates as well as information created specifically for older adults and family caregivers. And if you're looking for Medicare assistance during COVID-19, please visit shiphelp.org/COVID-19. We hope you learned something that can help keep you and your loved ones healthy. Please join us again on May 5th at 1 p.m. for another live coronavirus Q&A event. Thank you and have a good day. This concludes our call.

[00:00:00] Bill Walsh: Hello, I am AARP Vice President Bill Walsh, and I want to welcome you to this important discussion about the coronavirus. Before we begin, if you'd like to hear this telephone town hall in Spanish, press *0 on your telephone keypad now.

[00:00:21] [Instructions in Spanish]

[00:00:21] AARP, a nonprofit, nonpartisan membership organization has been working to promote the health and well-being of older Americans for more than 60 years. In the face of the global coronavirus pandemic, AARP is providing information and resources to help older adults and those caring for them. Despite a recent uptick in new coronavirus cases, there is good news for our COVID-weary nation now in the third year of the pandemic: Hospitalizations and deaths from COVID-19 continue to decline. Still, there is much work to be done and many questions to be answered surrounding boosters, testing, nursing home safety, and how to stay safe and protected as we continue to navigate the changing COVID landscape.

[00:01:11] Today we'll hear from an impressive panel of experts about these issues and more. We'll also get an update from Capitol Hill on legislation affecting older Americans. If you've participated in one of our Tele-Town Halls in the past, you know this is similar to a radio talk show, and you have the opportunity to ask your questions live. For those of you joining us on the phone, if you'd like to ask a question about the coronavirus pandemic, press *3 on your telephone to be connected with an AARP staff member, who will note your name and question and place you in a queue to ask that question live. If you're joining on Facebook or YouTube, you can post your question in the comments.

[00:01:50] Hello. If you're just joining, I'm Bill Walsh with AARP, and I want to welcome you to this important discussion about the global coronavirus pandemic. We're talking with leading experts and taking your questions live. To ask your question, please press *3, and if you're joining on Facebook or YouTube, you can drop your question in the comments section. We have some outstanding guests joining us today, including the administrator for the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services and the director of the Center for Medicare. We'll also be joined by my AARP colleague Jesse Salinas, who will help facilitate your calls today. This event is being recorded, and you can access the recording at AARP.org/coronavirus 24 hours after we wrap up. Again, to ask your question, please press *3 at any time on your telephone keypad to be connected with an AARP staff member, or if you're joining us on Facebook or YouTube, place your question in the comments.

[00:02:55] Now I'd like to welcome our guests. First is Meena Seshamani, M.D. and Ph.D. Dr. Seshamani is the deputy administrator and director of the Center for Medicare. Welcome to the program, Doctor.

[00:03:11] Meena Seshamani: Thank you so much for having me, Bill.

[00:03:13] Bill Walsh: All right, thanks so much for being here. And later we'll be joined by Chiquita Brooks-LaSure, the administrator for the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, which is commonly known as CMS. And just a reminder, to ask your question, press *3 on your telephone keypad, or drop it in the comments section on Facebook or YouTube.

[00:03:35] Let's go ahead and get started. Dr. Seshamani, last week, CMS announced a Medicare coverage for over-the-counter COVID tests at no cost. How do beneficiaries access these free tests?

[00:03:51] Meena Seshamani: You know, that's right, Bill. And again, thank you for having me. And I just want to say that the work that we have been doing on over-the-counter COVID tests is indicative of how we want the Medicare program to be able to support all the people who rely on this program. And I say that as a doctor who has taken care of Medicare patients up until very recently, less than a year ago. And so with the over-the-counter COVID tests, we know how important accessing these tests is. And so for the first time in the history of the Medicare program, we are paying for an over-the-counter test at no cost to people with Medicare. So you can get these over-the-counter COVID-19 tests at a pharmacy or health care provider that's participating in this initiative that we've set up. You can get up to eight tests each calendar month, and you won't have to pay anything out of your own pocket for them. Now, you have to get these tests from a pharmacy or other health care provider that's participating. We have tens of thousands of pharmacies participating in this initiative, including the five major national chains and more than 14 pharmacy chains overall. So to find out if your pharmacy is participating, you can contact your local pharmacy, or you can also go to www.medicare.gov/medicare-coronavirus to find out if the pharmacy near you is participating so that you can get those free tests.

[00:05:34] Bill Walsh: OK, fantastic. And I believe that URL was www.medicare.gov/medicare-coronavirus. Is that correct?

[00:05:46] Meena Seshamani: That's right. And when you go to get your tests, bring your red, white and blue Medicare card. Even if you have a Medicare Advantage plan or a Medicare Part D, plan that red, white and blue Medicare card is what will enable you to get these free tests. And if you have any questions about any of this, you can also call 1-800-MEDICARE. We're always available to answer questions related to the over-the-counter tests or about any other questions you may have with the Medicare program.

[00:06:19] Bill Walsh: OK, Doctor, thanks for that. I wanted to follow up and ask you if a Medicare beneficiary is homebound and can't get to the pharmacy, how do they get the Medicare covered tests?

[00:06:30] Meena Seshamani: Bill, that's a great question. You know, we are working with pharmacies and other providers to see if they can offer tests through a variety of means, including online ordering. And so this is where contacting your local provider and pharmacy to see if that's an option for you is very important. And additionally, you can visit COVIDtests.gov to get up to two sets of four at-home tests per household. So again, as you mentioned, Bill, [visit] the website to see where a pharmacy is participating in our initiative, but also remember that there's COVIDtests.gov to be able to get free over-the-counter tests delivered to your house, and you can get four tests per household, two times.

[00:07:23] Bill Walsh: Very good. Great accessibility to testing. Thanks for that, Doctor. Let me shift gears a little bit. Adjustments by Congress and CMS during the pandemic led to regulatory flexibility and new or expanded care options. What changes that were made in the past two years are going to remain with Medicare beyond the pandemic?

[00:07:47] Meena Seshamani: Yeah, it is absolutely true that the pandemic really has seen a change in the way that care is delivered. You know, where everyone really came together with tremendous partnerships to be able to keep our community safe and healthy, to really bring care to them, to make sure that people had access to care, especially when it was more difficult to be able to, for example, get to a doctor's office. You know, the initiative we just talked about, being able to provide over-the-counter tests, is just one example of how the Medicare program has stayed responsive and agile. You know, we have also provided additional payment for at-home vaccine administration, again, to try to make sure that we're reaching those people who need the most support during this time. We've also stayed responsive with the new therapeutics that have emerged with oral antivirals, monoclonal antibodies. And so this will continue to be a theme and a focus for us moving forward. We really want to make sure that you, the 63 million people who are in the Medicare program, are the center of everything that we do. We want to do everything we can to make sure that you are getting high-quality care that's really considering all of your needs, that we are addressing any disparities in health care and promoting health equity, and that we're continuing to make a program that's affordable and sustainable for all of you.

[00:09:19] Bill Walsh: OK. Now, one of the developments during the pandemic is that telehealth is more widely used and has some distinct benefits, even with the resumption of in-person care, notably for people in rural [areas] or people who are homebound. Congress recently expanded telehealth availability for most of 2022, but it's not guaranteed indefinitely. What's the future of telehealth for Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries?

[00:09:49] Meena Seshamani: Yeah, Bill, you are correct, that one thing that has emerged during the pandemic is how much the use of telehealth has grown. And in fact, a recent report from the Department of Health and Human Services, which is where CMS sits, showed a 63-fold increase in telehealth use for people with Medicare in 2020, because, again, as we wanted to make sure that people continue to have access to care when they could not necessarily go to the doctor's office. And I'll say that as a physician, I saw that myself. I was seeing patients through telehealth in 2020 and 2021. And I know that being able to access telehealth can be very important for access to care, to improve people's quality of life. And so some actions that we're taking, for example, we have made, following congressional action, telehealth payments permanent for behavioral health for after the pandemic. Because, again, we know that the largest increase in telehealth use has occurred with behavioral health. And we also know that we have a behavioral health crisis, and we need to make sure that we are providing access for these services. And so, following the congressional action, those payments will be permanent after the public health emergency. And we'll continue to look at ways that we can make sure that innovations are really driving those things that I mentioned, being able to support all of you, the people who rely on the Medicare program, so that you can get the best care possible.

[00:11:23] Bill Walsh: OK, very good. And when you say behavioral health, I assume you're talking about mental health services, is that correct?

[00:11:28] Meena Seshamani: Correct.

[00:11:29] Bill Walsh: OK.

[00:11:30] Meena Seshamani: Mental health services we want to make sure, for substance use disorder, we are doing everything we can to support people with their health journeys.

[00:11:39] Bill Walsh: OK. Well, very good. Let's hear from our listeners. It's time now to address your questions about the coronavirus with Dr. Meena Seshamani. As a reminder, press *3 at any time on your telephone keypad to be connected with an AARP staff member to share your question live. And if you'd like to listen in Spanish, press *0 at any time on your telephone.

[00:12:09] [Instructions in Spanish]

[00:12:10] And now I'd like to bring in my AARP colleague Jesse Salinas to help facilitate your calls today. Welcome, Jesse.

[00:12:17] Jesse Salinas: So glad to be here, Bill.

[00:12:19] Bill Walsh: All right, who is our first caller?

[00:12:21] Jesse Salinas: Our first question is from Facebook. It's from a lady named Angelee, and she says she's read that the second booster is only effective for about four weeks. If you're 65 and in good health, should you wait to get your booster or should you be getting it now?

[00:12:36] Bill Walsh: Doctor, can you field that one for us?

[00:12:40] Meena Seshamani: Yeah, absolutely. You know, the most important thing you can do to avoid getting seriously ill from COVID-19 is staying up to date on all of your vaccinations, and this includes that second booster dose. You know, ultimately the CDC's website has the most current information on things, but generally adults 50 years and older, really, we recommend that you get that second booster dose.

[00:13:05] Bill Walsh: Very good. Thank you very much, Doctor. Jesse, who's next in line?

[00:13:10] Jesse Salinas: Yeah, our next question is also from Facebook. This is from Kyle in Virginia, and he asked, "How do things like clinician burnout or staff shortages, things that are kind of fueled by the pandemic, impact the care for Medicare or Medicaid beneficiaries?"

[00:13:24] Bill Walsh: That's a great and timely question. Doctor, can you address that?

[00:13:29] Meena Seshamani: Yeah, I mean, this is something that we are definitely focused on, not just in CMS but also the department and the administration as a whole. You may have seen that one of our sister agencies, the Health Resources and Services Administration, has distributed grants for workplace wellness to try to address some of these issues with burnout. And I think where we are able to, again, bring it all back to why we all went into health care in the first place, to really care for people, and where we can make sure that we're setting up programs that create these team-based approaches to care that enable people to care for their communities. That can also certainly help with some of the issues that we're facing now.

[00:14:14] Bill Walsh: OK. Thanks very much. Jesse, let's go back to the phone lines. Who do we have next?

[00:14:19] Jesse Salinas: Yep, our next one is from Sandy from YouTube. And she says she's tried all week to get the free COVID test and she couldn't find a pharmacy that would honor it with her card. She tried a CVS and Walgreens. Do you have any ideas on how she should navigate this?

[00:14:36] Bill Walsh: Doctor, can you field that one?

[00:14:37] Meena Seshamani: Absolutely. Yes, absolutely, and thank you for raising that to our attention. You know, CVS and Walgreens are in our initiative. And what I would recommend is calling 1-800-MEDICARE and let us know that, because we will be sure to work with our pharmacy partners to make sure that you can get access.

[00:14:54] Bill Walsh: Hmm. I mean, generally speaking, I recall it was maybe a month or two ago where we were seeing a real shortage of in-home COVID tests. Has the supply nationwide improved?

[00:15:09] Meena Seshamani: I will say that in Medicare, we're not necessarily responsible for the supply. So I would defer to experts on that. But what I will say is that we are all working as hard as we can to make sure that we have access. And that's why setting up this initiative to pay for over-the-counter tests was so important.

[00:15:28] Bill Walsh: OK, very good. Jesse, who do we have up next?

[00:15:34] Jesse Salinas: Yep, our next question is from Jim in Illinois.

[00:15:39] Bill Walsh: Hey, Jim, welcome to the program. Go ahead with your question.

[00:15:42] Jim: Thank you. Yeah, my question was, if we took a home test and received a positive indication on it, should we follow up with a test from, like, one of those drive-through locations to validate the test?

[00:15:57] Bill Walsh: Thanks for that, Jim. Doctor, next steps if one gets a positive test result?

[00:16:04] Meena Seshamani: Yeah, I would say definitely. The CDC website and talking to your local physician are the most important steps when you have a positive test to make sure that you're doing everything that you can to, you know, quarantine and isolate, so as not to spread to others. And also to make sure that you take care of yourself in the best way possible as you recover. And I really wish you a speedy recovery.

[00:16:26] Bill Walsh: OK, thanks very much for that. Jessie, who do we have up next?

[00:16:31] Jesse Salinas: Our next question is going to come from a Nate in Illinois.

[00:16:35] Bill Walsh: Hey, Nate. Welcome to the program. Go ahead with your question.

[00:16:42] Nate: We're getting calls every day from people saying sign up now for a new health care Medicare program. Does this program that we're talking about today have anything to do with signing up? Are we signing up for health care?

[00:17:10] Bill Walsh: Hmm. Can you address that, Doctor?

[00:17:13] Meena Seshamani: Yes, and thank you for raising this question because it presents a good opportunity for me to let all of you know: Medicare will never call you. If someone is calling you and asking for your Medicare number, you should hang up. We are working very hard for you to prevent kind of deceptive marketing tactics and to make sure that you get accurate and accessible information about your Medicare coverage. But we want to make sure that you are not giving your Medicare number to anybody who calls you, because there are people, unfortunately, who are doing scams, and we want to try to protect you as much as possible from that.

[00:17:53] Bill Walsh: OK, very good. I want to thank our listeners for all those questions, and we're going to get back to your questions shortly, and as a reminder, if you'd like to ask a question, press *3 on your telephone keypad at any time. Dr. Seshamani, about 48 million individuals provide unpaid care to an adult family member or a friend. We refer to these folks as family caregivers. What's the importance of family caregivers, and how does CMS support those who help older adults remain in their homes?

[00:18:30] Meena Seshamani: Bill, thank you for that question. You know, family caregivers have always been such an important part of our community and how we're supporting people with Medicare. And I think that really came to the forefront with the pandemic. We really want to make sure that we're providing care that's holistic, that's connecting everyone who is caring for you, and that includes people in your household who are caring for you. And so where are there ways that we can work with your doctor, with your nurse, with your pharmacist, with other providers to make sure that they're also connecting with your family and that we are using all approaches to make sure that you are staying healthy and that your family also is being supported as they care for you.

[00:19:16] Bill Walsh: OK. Talking about family caregivers, what's the value of caregivers, both emotionally and financially, in providing care for a Medicare beneficiary?

[00:19:27] Meena Seshamani: Absolutely family caregivers play a critical role. And I say that as a doctor, as a daughter with parents on Medicare, as a mom of two kids, you know, being a caregiver takes many different avenues for many of us. And so, again, really thinking about the people who are in the Medicare program as people, not necessarily just as a patient with a diagnosis who's coming in for a specific office visit, but as somebody who lives in a household, who lives in a community, and really thinking about all the ways that we can make sure that we are caring for you in the best way possible. And this comes back to some of the initiatives that we have. For example, we have these things called accountable care organizations where doctors and other caregivers come together to really provide high-quality care to keep people healthy so they can be at home and have a high quality of life. And we're trying to grow these kinds of programs that can then also include other types of people, like community health workers and care managers, who can make sure that you have good access to food, for transportation, help with housing, because we know there are many things that can impact someone's health, and we want to make sure that we are tackling everything together. And you know, this also comes back, Bill, to what we were talking about earlier, where we were talking about telehealth for mental health services, where we can make sure that you can access care through your telephones, especially if you live in a rural area and don't have broadband. These are all the kinds of things that we're thinking about in the Medicare program, because we are keeping those 63 million people front and center of everything that we do.

[00:21:16] Bill Walsh: OK, thank you, Dr. Meena Seshamani, the director of the Center for Medicare. We are going to pose more questions to her in a moment, and we're going to take more live questions shortly. As reminder to our listeners, to get in the queue to ask your question live, press *3 on your telephone keypad, or drop your question in the comments section on Facebook or YouTube. Right now, I want to bring in Nancy LeaMond. Nancy is the executive vice president and chief advocacy and engagement officer at AARP. She's going to update our listeners about how AARP is fighting for them. Welcome, Nancy.

[00:21:56] Nancy LeaMond: Hi, Bill, glad to be here.

[00:21:57] Bill Walsh: All right. We're glad to have you. What's the latest news on the advocacy front?

[00:22:03] Nancy LeaMond: Well, lowering prescription drug prices continues to be our top priority. Recent polling shows this is the number one health issue Americans want Congress to tackle this year. And it's our number one issue too. AARP has called for lower drug prices for years, and we're pushing for lawmakers to allow Medicare to negotiate drug prices, put a cap on out-of-pocket costs that older adults pay for their prescription drugs, and impose penalties on drug companies that raise prices faster than the rate of inflation.

[00:22:38] Bill Walsh: It seems we're finally on the cusp of seeing prescription drug price relief, and I know AARP members are out there in force pushing their senators to take action.

[00:22:50] Nancy LeaMond: They sure are. Congress has promised for years that they would address the skyrocketing price of prescription drugs. And we have never been this close to major prescription drug reform. More than 80 percent of voters across parties support these changes that would help families afford medications and save taxpayers billions of dollars each year. The House has already passed a bill with AARP's top priorities. And this week, AARP members are calling their senators to urge action, and we're delivering petitions signed by more than 4 million Americans. Seniors are sick and tired of paying the highest prices in the entire world for their medicines, and they're demanding change.

[00:23:36] Bill Walsh: All right. Now, as we discuss Medicare today, we're thrilled to hear about the increased access to free COVID tests.

[00:23:45] Nancy LeaMond: Yes, we are so pleased to have the CMS leaders as our special guests today. We applaud their work to ensure Medicare beneficiaries can easily receive free at-home COVID tests from their pharmacies. Testing is a crucial part of managing the spread of the virus, and it helps seniors feel safer to go out and engage with their families and communities. AARP will continue to work with the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to make sure older Americans have access to care, treatment and support throughout this pandemic.

[00:24:19] Bill Walsh: You know, we're also relieved to hear about the progress being made in protecting nursing home residents around the country.

[00:24:28] Nancy LeaMond: Absolutely. You know, since the beginning of the pandemic, AARP has been shining a spotlight on the crisis in America's nursing homes, and we've been fighting for reform. No one has been more vulnerable to the perils of COVID than nursing home residents. And so we're pleased to see movement to keep residents safer. Federal agencies have regularly updated public data on COVID-19 cases, deaths, vaccination and booster rates for nursing home residents and staff. And there is also now information on weekend staffing levels and staff turnover on Medicare Care Compare website, so loved ones can see how nursing homes are doing. We're also encouraged by the administration's proposed new actions to ensure there's proper staffing and residents in nursing homes, and that they will receive safe, quality care, the kind of care they deserve. We support these changes and appreciate the agency's efforts to consider public input on these issues. And again, I want to personally thank Administrator Brooks-LaSure, who I know is joining us soon, and Dr. Seshamani for being with us today. And not only for being with us today, but for working very closely with AARP on all issues, not just related to COVID in nursing homes, but all of the Medicare issues that affect our constituency every single day.

[00:25:57] Bill Walsh: OK, and to find that website that Nancy just referenced, folks can go online and search “Medicare Care Compare.” Nancy, thanks so much for being with us today.

[00:26:10] Nancy LeaMond: Thank you, Bill.

[00:26:11] Bill Walsh: And as Nancy mentioned, we're going to be joined shortly by Chiquita Brooks-LaSure, the administrator for the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, but until then, we're going to go back to our phone lines and take questions from our listeners. A reminder to all of you: If you'd like to ask a question, just go ahead and press *3 on your telephone keypad. Jesse, who do we have next in the queue?

[00:27:00] Jesse Salinas: Next one is from Shirley in Massachusetts.

[00:27:03] Bill Walsh: Hey, Shirley. Welcome to our program. Go ahead with your question.

[00:27:07] Shirley: Yes, hi. My question today is I received eight in-home test kits that I signed up for and got it through the post office. So I was wondering how you would store the kits, and what if I never use it and I just need to store it? Do I put it in a cabinet? Do I put it in the refrigerator? And is there shelf life on these kits also?

[00:27:33] Bill Walsh: Thank you very much for that question. Doctor, that's a great question. What about storage and shelf life of these at-home tests?

[00:27:40] Meena Seshamani: Yes, thank you, Shirley, for your question. I would refer to the box. On the box of the test it should tell you how long the test is good for. They have a date on it. And also, it will tell you the temperature range at which the test can be stored. Generally speaking, the tests can just be stored in a cabinet, but again, I would refer you to the box, and look specifically for the storage instructions there of the temperature range, and also the box should have a date on it by which you should use the tests.

[00:28:14] Bill Walsh: OK, very good, and maybe I can get you, Doctor, to repeat some of the information you provided at the outset of the program. It sounded like Shirley had gotten her eight free tests, but there are tests also available for free through Medicare, is that right?

[00:28:31] Meena Seshamani: That's correct. So what Shirley was referring to is if you go to COVIDtests.gov, you can get four tests per household up to two times, so that comes to eight tests. So that's COVIDtests.gov, and the post office will send you tests in the mail to your house. The other program that we have is where you go to a pharmacy that's participating in our initiative, show your red, white and blue Medicare card, and you can get up to eight tests per calendar month, and Medicare will be paying the pharmacy for those tests. So you don't have to pay any money. You show your red, white and blue Medicare card, you can get the tests, and we pay the pharmacy for those tests. So there are two different ways. We're trying every avenue we can to be able to get tests to all of you.

[00:29:31] Bill Walsh: OK, very good. Thank you so much for that, Doctor, and thank you for your calls. We're going to be taking more listener calls shortly. I'd now like to welcome Chiquita Brooks-LaSure, who is the administrator for the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. Administrator Brooks-LaSure oversees Medicare, Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance program, and healthcare.gov Health Insurance Marketplace. Welcome, Administrator. Thanks so much for being with us today.

[00:30:01] Chiquita Brooks-LaSure: Oh, thank you for having me. It's a pleasure to be here.

[00:30:04] Bill Walsh: All right. Let's dive right into questions, if that's OK. The FDA recently authorized and the CDC recommends a fourth dose of the Pfizer and Moderna COVID vaccines for people ages 50 and older. Who should get a fourth shot, and when, and what else should our listeners know?

[00:30:26] Chiquita Brooks-LaSure: Well, it's really exciting that we have COVID-19 vaccines, right? Like, two years ago, where were we? And thank goodness we're in the position where we have vaccines. And vaccines, which include boosters, have been our defense in the fight against this virus. And so we just strongly encourage everyone to get vaccinated and then to get boosted if you're over the age of 50 years old. I'm just a little shy, so I'm waiting for it to be prescribed for us. But if you're over 50, you can get a second booster at least four months after you've gotten your first booster. And the CDC website is a wonderful resource to have the most current information about how to stay up to date on your vaccinations. And so I strongly encourage you to look to the CDC website for the latest up-to-date information on getting boosted, getting vaccinated and all of the things we need to know about COVID.

[00:31:39] Bill Walsh: OK, very good. And as a reminder, that website is CDC.gov. Let me follow up on that very quickly. I wonder about those folks who received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine or who may be immunocompromised and younger than 50. What is the guidance for them at this point?

[00:31:58] Chiquita Brooks-LaSure: So, it depends a little bit on your health, and people who are moderately or severely immunocompromised have specific COVID-19 vaccination recommendations. And so if you fall into that category, you certainly want to pay really close attention to what CDC is recommending. If you've gotten the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, you can get a second dose of either Pfizer or Moderna and a booster at least two months after that second dose. So first go get a dose of Pfizer or Moderna if you want, and then after that you can get a booster. But again, the best source of information is to make sure to go to the CDC if you have any questions.

[00:32:51] Bill Walsh: OK, very good. Let me shift gears and talk about what Medicare and Medicaid cover in this regard. I wonder if there are circumstances where someone with Medicare or Medicaid should pay an out -of-pocket cost for a COVID vaccine, such as a copay, a deductible or a fee to administer.

[00:33:11] Chiquita Brooks-LaSure: No. The vaccine, if you have Medicaid/Medicare, is free for you.

[00:33:19] Bill Walsh: OK, very good to know, and is a Medicare number required to receive a vaccine or booster, or is this another scam?

[00:33:28] Chiquita Brooks-LaSure: You might be, as a Medicare beneficiary, you might be asked to show your card or to give your number, but that's only because your provider— the pharmacist, the physician — can bill Medicare, but you yourself are not going to have to pay anything out of pocket. And just a reminder: Medicare will never call you, and you should never give out your Medicare number over the phone.

[00:33:58] Bill Walsh: OK. Great advice. Thank you for that. Now, turning our attention to funding. Congress is currently working on additional funding for COVID-19 testing, treatment and vaccines. Why is a COVID funding deal so important? What's at risk if it's delayed or reduced?

[00:34:17] Chiquita Brooks-LaSure: The administration has made clear to Congress that additional funds are going to be needed for tests, for treatments and vaccines to sustain our COVID-19 response. We are hopefully on the tail end of this, but we are not through the COVID-19 challenge. And so we think as the administration, it's so important to get this additional funding. Without it, fewer treatments, so the monoclonal antibodies which are treating COVID-19, we might not be able to send as much to the states, and it will hamper the government's ability to purchase these additional treatments. Secondly, fewer tests are going to be available to Americans, and as you know, being able to test is crucial to making sure that we can contain and control COVID-19 infections. It would mean less surveillance for future variants, but we don't know how the how the virus will continue to mutate, and we want to be prepared if there are variants in the future. And finally, we're at risk of running short on vaccines if we don't receive additional funding to help support these efforts.

[00:35:44] Bill Walsh: OK, so it sounds like that funding deal is really critical to consumers all around the country. All right, well, thanks so much for that. Now, let me shift gears again. The public health emergency declared in January of 2020, prior to COVID's spread across the U.S., was set to expire this week but will receive a 90-day extension. What's been the role of the public health emergency declaration for more than two years, and what does the extension mean for people?

[00:36:16] Chiquita Brooks-LaSure: So a number of flexibilities and requirements are tied to the public health emergency. Some of the important ones, the flexibilities that come from the public health emergency, have been that CMS has been able to let states and providers suspend some of their requirements to make sure they could deal with the increased demand for coverage and care during the pandemic. As we all know, during [the pandemic] providers have been on the front lines, and so there've been important flexibilities, telehealth flexibilities, and we are in the process of evaluating these flexibilities to see what's worked, what hasn't. The other very important piece that is related to the public health emergency is coverage in our program. We are at record numbers of enrollment in Medicaid and CHIP and our other programs, the three Ms, as I like to say, marketplace and Medicare coverage. And part of that has been because the public health emergency has meant that more people are eligible, have been staying on the Medicaid program. And so one of the things that we are very focused on is making sure that we continue to evaluate the reforms and changes, like telehealth, that have proven to be very effective, and also really making sure that we maintain those coverage levels.

[00:38:00] Bill Walsh: OK, very good.

[00:38:03] Chiquita Brooks-LaSure: I was just going to add that if there's any more information that people want to know about what we're doing and how the Medicare program is changing, of course, please feel free to go to our website, www.medicare.gov.

[00:38:20] Bill Walsh: OK, thank you so much for that. Now it's time to address more of your questions with Chiquita Brooks-LaSure, the administrator for the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, and Dr. Meena Seshamani, who is the director of the Centers for Medicare. As a reminder, go ahead and press *3 at any time on your telephone keypad to be connected with an AARP staff member and get into the queue to ask your question live. Jesse, who do we have next on the line?

[00:38:52] Jesse Salinas: Yep, our next call is going to be Maria from Massachusetts.

[00:38:55] Bill Walsh: Hey, Maria. Welcome to the program. Go ahead with your question.

[00:38:59] Maria: Yeah, hi. Yeah, thanks for the excellent program. So I'm wondering, is Medicare currently paying for antivirals and/or monoclonal antibodies should they be needed by folks? And question number two, short, is relating to what was just discussed, is telehealth still being covered now for others other than behavioral health or not? Thank you.

[00:39:30] Bill Walsh: Thank you very much, Maria. Maybe Dr. Seshamani wants to weigh in on that, and if the administrator wants to add something, you surely can. Doctor?

[00:39:39] Meena Seshamani: Yeah, thank you, Bill, and thank you, Maria, for your question. So first on the oral antivirals and monoclonal antibodies, Medicare is paying for monoclonal antibodies. For oral antivirals, that's where we have encouraged the Medicare Part B plan to pay a reasonable dispensing fee to the pharmacies and to cover the oral antivirals as well. So we continue to make access to these therapeutics a priority in the response to the pandemic. To your second question, all the telehealth flexibilities are still in effect. What we were referring to earlier was for behavioral health, for mental health. After the public health emergency is over, that will continue. But right now we are still in the public health emergency. Also, Congress extended all of the telehealth flexibilities, so all of those are indeed still in effect.

[00:40:46] Bill Walsh: OK, very good. Thank you so much for that, Doctor. Jesse, who is next on the line?

[00:40:52] Jesse Salinas: Our next call is going to be Jean from New York.

[00:40:56] Bill Walsh: Hey, Jean. Welcome to our program. Go ahead with your question.

[00:41:00] Jean: OK. I have a relative who's in a nursing home. And currently the rule is you have to be tested 24 hours before you can visit the nursing home. They do not accept an at-home test. Is that rule still going to hold steady, because it's more difficult to just always get a 24-hour test. So is that going to change anytime soon?

[00:41:25] Bill Walsh: Great question, Jean. Let's ask the administrator about that. Administrator, can you answer that question?

[00:41:32] Chiquita Brooks-LaSure: Sure. So just to say, this is one of the things that we really learned during the pandemic is how important it is for residents to be able to see their families. And we have wanted to make sure that that protection is in effect. One of the things that the nursing home should be doing is making it easy for you to see family members. And so we do allow facilities to have some requirements around testing, but I would love to, if we can find a way, for us to follow up and to better understand what the requirement is at the nursing home you're describing, to make sure that they're making tests available, if they're not accepting at-home tests.

[00:42:30] Bill Walsh: Hmm. I wonder if this is a case where Jean or others should reach out to their nursing home ombudsman and pursue it through that avenue as well.

[00:42:38] Chiquita Brooks-LaSure: Oh yes, of course, please. That's such a great suggestion. So please feel free to do that, and also feel free to contact us.

[00:42:50] Bill Walsh: And, of course, Jean and others who are listening, every state has a nursing home ombudsman service, which is free, that's accessible to consumers, and they can help with issues like this. Jesse, let's go back to the lines. Who's next in the queue?

[00:43:07] Jesse Salinas: Our next call is Wilamena in Virginia.

[00:43:09] Bill Walsh: Hey, Wilamena, welcome to our program. Go ahead with your question.

[00:43:26] Wilamena: Thank you. I'm talking about the self-tests at-home results. A little while back, they had a recall on them. Is this still in effect? I've heard so much. I know the doctor has addressed this, but I'm not clear on what's going on.

[00:43:34] Bill Walsh: Hmm. Might be a little bit out of the purview of our guests today, but I wonder if Dr. Seshamani can address that — a recall on in-home tests.

[00:43:44] Meena Seshamani: Yeah, thank you so much for the question. The initiative that we've been talking about of getting eight over-the-counter tests per calendar month applies for any FDA-approved tests. And so, when you go to the pharmacy to get your tests, you can certainly talk to the pharmacist, and you can see what tests they have available, because it is those FDA-approved tests that will be part of the program.

[00:44:12] Bill Walsh: OK, but we haven't heard anything about a recall of any of these at-home tests?

[00:44:19] Meena Seshamani: That I do not, I would defer. We can, we can probably follow up and see, but basically what is available in the pharmacies are FDA-approved tests.

[00:44:28] Bill Walsh: FDA-approved tests. Very good. OK, well, thank you to our listeners for those questions. We'll be taking more of those questions shortly. And as a reminder, to ask your question, press *3 on your telephone keypad at any time. Let's turn back to our experts for a moment. Chiquita Brooks-LaSure is the administrator for the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. Administrator, approximately a quarter of all U.S. deaths from COVID-19 are from nursing home residents and staff. Family want to know if their loved ones are safe and if staff are protected. What resources are available to help provide information about a facility's quality or staff vaccination rates?

[00:45:13] Chiquita Brooks-LaSure: This is a huge priority for the administration, and as you described, so many of the deaths from COVID have been in nursing homes. We have started putting even more information about safety and quality on nursing homes on our website. So you can go to medicare.gov, and then slash, comparecare. And one of the things that we have is the ability of family members to look on that website and see things like vaccination rates of the staff and other quality measures. We just recently started reporting on staff turnover rates, which are, in our experience, an important indicator of quality.

[00:46:10] Bill Walsh: OK, very good. Thank you for that, Administrator. Now, with news of staffing shortages at nursing homes around the country, what can families do to ensure that their loved ones aren't ignored or overlooked?

[00:46:23] Chiquita Brooks-LaSure: This is, we know, it's been an issue before the pandemic, but it's been one during for a number of reasons, and we are in the process of proposing changes to our staffing requirements. And so we've asked for information; we call it a request for information. And so we're looking at these issues very carefully. The first thing that I would point people to is what you just suggested, which is to really look at your long-term care ombudspeople. They are such a great resource. I met with a few a couple of months ago as we were working through our nursing home recommendations, and just their passion for protecting residents and families is really unmatched. And so really encourage people to reach out there, also because then we really do hear — they feedback to us at the government level about what they're hearing on the ground. And then just really encourage family members to report it if they see inadequate care, because again, that's how we learn about it. That's how we can make changes. And so another avenue to report is your state survey agencies. So each state is responsible for serving nursing homes, and when they receive complaints, it helps them know where to direct their attention.

[00:48:01] Bill Walsh: OK, thank you very much for that. It sounds like if there was ever a time for families to be a strong and outspoken advocate for their loved ones in nursing facilities, this is the time to be that advocate. Administrator, during the State of the Union address, the president said significant steps will be taken to address safety and quality in the nation's nursing homes. What are the priorities, and how will families see a difference in care as a result of those changes?

[00:48:29] Chiquita Brooks-LaSure: So, the president himself is so focused on long-term care generally, and nursing home quality and safety in particular. And we, as part of the State of the Union, the president working with all of us, we put out a number of initiatives that we're going to be undertaking. One that we think is core is really looking at what should be the minimum staffing requirement for nursing homes. And we're in the process of developing that standard as we get feedback from all sorts of stakeholders. But we really want this approach to be holistic, and some of our goals are ensuring adequate staffing, also holding poor performers accountable, and then lifting up best practices because there are places where we're seeing good care, and we want to make sure that all nursing homes are meeting safety, quality standards. And finally, I would say we're also focused on making sure that ownership information is more transparent, in part, because we want to make sure that families and other advocates know where to go to make sure that there's accountability in some of these changes. So we are in the process of starting to unveil some of these proposals, and very much appreciate the input of everyone with a perspective. And by that I mean we've really been engaging with nursing home residents themselves, with certified nursing assistants and with nurses, as well as the industry, as we try to move forward to improve care in our nursing homes.

[00:50:35] Bill Walsh: OK, very good. Thank you so much for that. And we've mentioned a nursing home ombudsman program a couple of times now. One way to find that for our listeners is going to aarp.org and just searching on “ombudsman.” Articles should come up related to how to find a nursing home ombudsman in your state. Now it's time to address more of your questions with Chiquita Brooks-LaSure, the administrator for the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services, and Dr. Meena Seshamani, the director of the Center for Medicare. Please press *3 at any time on your telephone keypad to be connected with an AARP staff member to get in the queue to ask your question live. Jesse, who do we have on the line?

[00:51:26] Jesse Salinas: The next caller is going to be Dean from Evergreen.

[00:51:30] Bill Walsh: Hey, Dean, welcome to our program. Go ahead with your question.

[00:51:42] Dean: Yeah. I had ordered a patch or, what you call it, a testing kit in the mail and it didn't show up. What would be our next steps?

[00:51:53] Bill Walsh: OK, Dr. Seshamani, do you want to address that?

[00:51:58] Meena Seshamani: Yeah, thank you, Dean, for your question, and I'm sorry to hear that your tests haven't shown up yet. I would say to go to COVIDtest.gov. The other thing is you may have gotten a confirmation number that will enable you to track or follow up, but you know, COVIDtest.gov is the place to go for those tests that are being distributed through the post office.

[00:52:21] Bill Walsh: Very good. Thanks so much for that. Jesse, who do we have up next?

[00:52:26] Jesse Salinas: Our next caller is Anne from Pennsylvania.

[00:52:29] Bill Walsh: Hi, Anne, welcome to our program. Go ahead with your question.

[00:52:33] Anne: Hi. I called the Medicare phone number on my Medicare card, it'll be two weeks ago tomorrow, questioning if Medicare was going to pay for me — I'm 66 — to get my second booster. And the person that answered the Medicare line told me that I would only be eligible to get it if I was immunocompromised, and I asked what's the Medicare's definition of immunocompromised. She told me I had to go to my doctor to find out whether I was immunocompromised. And I said, well, isn't my age, 66, isn't that one of the things that they said you were eligible to go get your second booster if it's been four months since your last one? And she was like, no, you have to have immunocompromised situation to get your second booster. So, is this correct? Is she giving me the correct information? And if she's not, can somebody address that with Medicare, that somebody was giving that information out.

[00:53:47] Bill Walsh: Anne, thank you so much for that question, and there aren't two people in the country better situated to answer that question than those experts we have on the line today. Dr. Seshamani, you are the head of the Centers for Medicare. Would you like to take that?

[00:54:01] Meena Seshamani: Sure, and thank you so much for raising this. In fact, you can go and get a booster; you're correct. With your age, you can go, you can, and you should get a booster if you are four months out from your vaccination. And thank you for raising it as well, because we will make sure to take that back to make sure that everyone who's working in 1-800-MEDICARE Call Center is providing the correct information.

[00:54:28] Bill Walsh: OK, thank you so much for that. And we had a caller, Dean, just a moment ago, who had some issue with getting the test kits that he had ordered. I wanted to give him and our other listeners a toll-free number to get those free test kits. It's 1-800-232-0233, that's 800-232-0233. Jesse, who do we have on the line next?

[00:54:55] Jesse Salinas: Our next question is from Rose in Texas.

[00:54:58] Bill Walsh: Hey, Rose, welcome to our program.

[00:55:04] Rose: Yes, I just received my second booster shot. All the shots were from the Moderna, and I gave the nurse my COVID-19 vaccination record card. Now the whole front of it is filled up. What's going to happen when we get our other shot?

[00:55:33] Bill Walsh: OK. Do either of our guests have any answer for that? It sounds like Rose's vaccination record card is about to be filled up.

[00:55:43] Chiquita Brooks-LaSure: Yes, this is the administrator. This is an issue that we are flagging with our colleagues at HHS. CMS does not create the vaccination cards, but we are aware of it. And we will make sure that our sister agencies creates a plan.

[00:56:04] Bill Walsh: OK, thank you so much for that, Administrator, and just one other resource for our listeners. There's been a lot of talk today about nursing homes and, you know, checking on vaccination levels, et cetera. AARP has a very good resource for folks to check that out for free. And you can find that resource at our website. That website is aarp.org/nursinghomedashboard. Go there to find the latest on nursing homes where your loved ones reside.

[00:56:43] I want to thank our experts and our listeners, too. This has been a really informative discussion. Thanks to both of our experts for answering our questions today. And thank you, our AARP members and volunteers and listeners, for participating in this discussion. AARP, a nonprofit, nonpartisan membership organization has been working to promote the health and well-being of older Americans for more than 60 years. In the face of this crisis, we're providing information and resources to help older adults and those caring for them protect themselves from the virus, prevent its spread to others while taking care of themselves. All of the resources referenced today, including a recording of today's Q&A event, can be found at aarp.org/coronavirus beginning tomorrow, April 15th. Go there if your question was not addressed, and you'll find the latest updates as well as information created specifically for older adults and family caregivers. And if you're looking for Medicare assistance during COVID-19, please visit shiphelp.org/COVID-19. We hope you learned something that can help keep you and your loved ones healthy. Please join us again on May 5th at 1 p.m. for another live coronavirus Q&A event. Thank you and have a good day. This concludes our call.

Teleasamblea de AARP

Bill Walsh: Hola, soy Bill Walsh, vicepresidente de AARP y quiero darles la bienvenida a esta importante discusión sobre el coronavirus. Antes de comenzar, si desean escuchar esta teleasamblea en español presionen *0 en el teclado de su teléfono ahora.

[En español]

Bill Walsh: AARP, una organización de membresía, sin fines de lucro ni afiliación política, ha estado trabajando para promover la salud y el bienestar de los adultos mayores durante más de 60 años. Ante la pandemia mundial del coronavirus, AARP brinda información y recursos para ayudar a los adultos mayores y a quienes los cuidan.

A pesar del aumento reciente en los nuevos casos de coronavirus, hay buenas noticias para nuestra nación, cansada de la COVID-19. Ahora en el tercer año de la pandemia, las hospitalizaciones y muertes por COVID-19 continúan disminuyendo. Aún así, queda mucho trabajo por hacer y muchas preguntas por responder sobre los refuerzos, las pruebas, la seguridad en los hogares de ancianos y cómo mantenerse uno seguro y protegido mientras continuamos navegando por el panorama cambiante de la COVID-19.

Hoy escucharemos a un impresionante panel de expertas hablar sobre estos temas y otros. También recibiremos una actualización del Congreso sobre la legislación que afecta a los adultos mayores del país. Si ya han participado en alguna de nuestras teleasambleas en el pasado, saben que es similar a un programa de entrevistas de radio y tienen la oportunidad de hacer sus preguntas en vivo.

Para aquellos de ustedes que se unan a nosotros por teléfono, si desean hacer una pregunta sobre la pandemia del coronavirus, presionen *3 en su teléfono para conectarse con un miembro del personal de AARP que anotará su nombre y su pregunta y los colocará en turno para hacer esa pregunta en vivo. Si participan desde Facebook o YouTube, pueden publicar su pregunta en los comentarios.

Hola, si acaban de unirse, soy Bill Walsh de AARP y quiero darles la bienvenida a este importante debate sobre la pandemia mundial del coronavirus. Estaremos hablando con principales expertas y respondiendo sus preguntas en vivo. Para hacer una pregunta, presionen *3. Y si participan desde Facebook o YouTube, pueden dejar su pregunta en la sección de comentarios.

Tenemos unas invitadas destacadas que nos acompañarán hoy, incluida la administradora de los Centros de Servicios de Medicare y Medicaid, y la directora del Centro de Medicare. También nos acompañará mi colega de AARP, Jesse Salinas, quien ayudará a facilitar sus llamadas hoy. Este evento está siendo grabado y podrán acceder a la grabación en aarp.org/coronavirus 24 horas después de que terminemos. Nuevamente, para hacer una pregunta, presionen *3 en cualquier momento en el teclado de su teléfono para conectarse con un miembro del personal de AARP. O si participan desde Facebook o YouTube, dejen su pregunta en los comentarios.

Ahora nos gustaría dar la bienvenida a nuestras invitadas. La primera es la doctora Meena Seshamani. La Dra. Seshamani es la administradora y directora del Centro de Medicare. Bienvenida al programa, doctora.

Meena Seshamani: Muchas gracias por recibirme, Bill.

Bill Walsh: Muy bien. Muchas gracias por estar aquí. Y más tarde, se nos unirá Chiquita Brooks-LaSure, la administradora de los Centros de Servicios de Medicare y Medicaid, que comúnmente se conoce como CMS. Y solo como recordatorio, para hacer una pregunta, presionen *3 en el teclado de su teléfono o colóquenla en la sección de comentarios en Facebook o YouTube.

Sigamos adelante y comencemos. Dra. Seshamani, la semana pasada, CMS anunció una cobertura de Medicare para la prueba de COVID-19 de venta libre sin costo alguno. ¿Cómo acceden los beneficiarios a estas pruebas gratuitas?

Meena Seshamani: Así es, Bill. Y, de nuevo, gracias por recibirme. Y solo quiero decir que el trabajo que hemos estado haciendo con la prueba de COVID-19 de venta libre es indicativo de cómo queremos que Medicare apoye a todas las personas que dependen de este programa. Y lo digo como médica que ha atendido a pacientes de Medicare hasta hace muy poco tiempo, hace menos de un año.

Entonces, sabemos lo importante que es acceder a las pruebas de COVID-19 de venta libre. Y por primera vez en la historia del programa Medicare, estamos pagando una prueba de venta libre sin costo alguno para las personas con Medicare. Por lo tanto, pueden obtener estas pruebas de COVID-19 sin receta en una farmacia o proveedor de atención médica que participe en esta iniciativa que hemos establecido. Pueden obtener hasta ocho pruebas cada mes calendario y no tendrán que pagar nada de su propio bolsillo por ellas.

Ahora, deben conseguir estas pruebas en una farmacia u otro proveedor de atención médica que participe. Tenemos decenas de miles de farmacias que participan en esta iniciativa, incluidas las cinco principales cadenas nacionales y más de 14 cadenas de farmacias en general. Entonces, pueden comunicarse con su farmacia local o también pueden visitar www.medicare.gov/medicare-coronavirus para poder averiguar si la farmacia cercana a ustedes está participando, para que puedan obtener esas pruebas gratuitas.

Bill Walsh: Bien, fantástico. Y creo que la URL era www.medicare.gov/medicare-coronavirus, ¿es correcto?

Meena Seshamani: Así es. Y cuando vayan a buscar las pruebas, lleven su tarjeta roja, blanca y azul de Medicare. Incluso si tienen un plan Medicare Advantage o un plan de la Parte D de Medicare, esa tarjeta roja, blanca y azul de Medicare es lo que les permitirá obtener estas pruebas gratuitas. Y si tienen alguna pregunta sobre algo de esto, también pueden llamar al 1-800-MEDICARE, siempre estamos disponibles para responder preguntas relacionadas con las pruebas de venta libre o cualquier otra pregunta que puedan tener sobre el programa Medicare.

Bill Walsh: Bien, doctora, gracias. Quiero hacer un seguimiento y preguntar, si un beneficiario de Medicare está confinado en su hogar y no puede ir a la farmacia, ¿cómo obtiene las pruebas cubiertas por Medicare?

Meena Seshamani: Bill, esa es una buena pregunta. Ya sabe, estamos trabajando con farmacias y otros proveedores para ver si pueden ofrecer pruebas por medio de diversos medios, incluido el pedido en línea. Y aquí es donde es muy importante ponerse en contacto con su proveedor y farmacia local para ver si esa es una opción para ustedes.

Y además, pueden visitar covidtest.gov para obtener hasta dos conjuntos de cuatro pruebas para el hogar por hogar. Así que, una vez más, como ha mencionado, Bill, [visiten] el sitio web para ver dónde hay una farmacia que participe en nuestra iniciativa, pero también recuerden que existe COVIDtests.gov para poder obtener pruebas gratuitas de venta libre que se envían a su casa, y pueden obtener cuatro pruebas por hogar, dos veces.

Bill Walsh: Muy bien. Gran accesibilidad a las pruebas. Gracias, doctora. Permítanme cambiar un poco de tema. Los ajustes realizados por el Congreso y los CMS durante la pandemia generaron flexibilidad regulatoria y opciones de atención nuevas o ampliadas. ¿Qué cambios que se hicieron en los últimos dos años permanecerán con Medicare más allá de la pandemia?

Meena Seshamani: Sí, es absolutamente cierto que la pandemia realmente ha traído un cambio en la forma en que se brinda la atención, donde todos realmente se unieron en una gran asociación para poder mantener a nuestras comunidades seguras y saludables, para realmente brindarles atención, para asegurarse de que las personas tuvieran acceso a la atención, especialmente cuando era más difícil ir al consultorio de un médico.

La iniciativa de la que acabamos de hablar, de poder proporcionar pruebas de venta libre, es solo un ejemplo de cómo el programa Medicare se ha mantenido receptivo y ágil. Sabe, también hemos brindado un pago adicional para la administración de vacunas en el hogar, nuevamente, para tratar de asegurarnos de llegar a las personas que necesitan más apoyo durante este tiempo.

También hemos estado atentos a las nuevas terapias que han surgido con los antivirales orales y los anticuerpos monoclonales. Y esto seguirá siendo un tema y un objetivo para nosotros en el futuro. Queremos asegurarnos de que ustedes, los 63 millones de personas que están en el programa de Medicare, sean el centro de todo lo que hacemos.

Queremos hacer todo lo posible para asegurarnos de que reciban atención de alta calidad, que realmente tenga en cuenta todas sus necesidades, que estemos abordando cualquier disparidad en la atención médica y promoviendo la equidad en la salud, y que sigamos creando un programa que sea asequible y sostenible para todos ustedes.

Bill Walsh: Bien, ahora, uno de los avances durante la pandemia es que la telesalud se usa más ampliamente y tiene algunos beneficios distintos, incluso con la reanudación de la atención en persona, especialmente para las personas que viven en zonas rurales o que están confinadas en su hogar. El Congreso amplió recientemente la disponibilidad de telesalud durante la mayor parte del 2022, pero no está garantizado indefinidamente. ¿Cuál es el futuro de la telesalud para los beneficiarios de Medicare y Medicaid?

Meena Seshamani: Sí, Bill, tiene razón en que algo que surgió durante la pandemia es cuánto ha crecido el uso de la telesalud y, de hecho, un informe reciente del Departamento de Salud y Servicios Humanos, que es donde se encuentra CMS, mostró un aumento de 63 veces en el uso de telesalud para personas con Medicare en el 2020. Porque, nuevamente, queríamos asegurarnos de que las personas continuaran teniendo acceso a la atención cuando no podían ir al consultorio del médico.

Y diré que, como médica, lo vi yo misma, estuve viendo pacientes a través de telesalud en el 2020 y el 2021. Y sé que poder acceder a la telesalud puede ser muy importante para recibir la atención y mejorar la calidad de vida de las personas. Y así, algunas medidas que estamos tomando, por ejemplo, a raíz de la acción del Congreso, han hecho permanentes los pagos de telesalud para la salud conductual luego de la pandemia. Porque, nuevamente, sabemos que el mayor aumento en el uso de la telesalud se ha producido con la salud conductual. Y también sabemos que tenemos una crisis de salud mental, y tenemos que asegurarnos de que estamos proporcionando acceso a estos servicios.

Y así, siguiendo la acción del Congreso, esos pagos serán permanentes después de la emergencia de salud pública. Y continuaremos buscando formas de asegurarnos de que la innovación realmente esté impulsando las cosas que mencioné, pudiendo apoyar a todas las personas que confían en el programa Medicare para que puedan obtener la mejor atención posible.

Bill Walsh: Está bien, muy bien. Y cuando dice salud conductual, supongo que está hablando de servicios de salud mental, ¿es así?

Meena Seshamani: Correcto.

Bill Walsh: Está bien.

Meena Seshamani: Servicios de salud mental. Queremos asegurarnos, para el trastorno por uso de sustancias, que estamos haciendo todo lo posible para ayudar a las personas con sus necesidades de atención médica.

Bill Walsh: Está bien. Bueno, muy bien. Escuchemos a nuestros oyentes. Ahora es el momento de abordar sus preguntas sobre el coronavirus con la Dra. Meena Seshamani. Como recordatorio, presionen *3 en cualquier momento en el teclado de su teléfono para conectarse con un miembro del personal de AARP y compartir su pregunta en vivo. Y si desean escuchar en español, presionen *0 en cualquier momento en el teclado de su teléfono.

[En español]

Bill Walsh: Y ahora necesito traer a mi colega de AARP Jesse Salinas, para ayudar a facilitar sus llamadas. Bienvenido, Jesse.

Jesse Salinas: Muy contento de estar aquí, Bill.

Bill Walsh: Muy bien, ¿de quién es nuestra primera llamada?

Jesse Salinas: Nuestra primera pregunta es de Facebook. Es de una dama llamada Angelique, quien dice que ha leído que el segundo refuerzo solo es eficaz durante unas cuatro semanas. Si tiene 65 años y goza de buena salud, ¿debería esperar para recibir el refuerzo o debería recibirlo ahora?

Bill Walsh: Doctora, ¿puede responder?

Meena Seshamani: Sí, absolutamente. Ya sabe, lo más importante que puede hacer para evitar enfermarse gravemente de COVID-19 es mantener todas sus vacunas al día. Y esto incluye esa segunda dosis de refuerzo. Ya sabe, en última instancia, el sitio web de los CDC tiene la información más actualizada sobre el tema. Pero, en general, para los adultos de 50 años o más, realmente recomendamos que reciban esa segunda dosis de refuerzo.

Bill Walsh: Muy bien. Muchas gracias, doctora. Jesse, ¿quién es el siguiente?

Jesse Salinas: Sí, nuestra próxima pregunta también es de Facebook. Esto es de Kyle en Virginia, y preguntó: ¿Cómo afectan aspectos como el agotamiento de los médicos o la escasez de personal, aspectos que en cierto modo son exacerbados por la pandemia, a la atención de los beneficiarios de Medicare o Medicaid?

Bill Walsh: Esa es una gran y oportuna pregunta. Dra. ¿Puede abordar eso?

Meena Seshamani: Sí, esto es algo en lo que definitivamente nos enfocamos, no solo en CMS, sino también en el departamento y la administración en general. Es posible que hayan visto que una de nuestras agencias hermanas, la Administración de Servicios y Recursos de Salud, ha distribuido subvenciones para el bienestar en el lugar de trabajo, para tratar de abordar algunos de estos problemas relacionados con el agotamiento.

Y creo que podemos, nuevamente, regresar a por qué todos nos dedicamos a la atención médica en primer lugar, para realmente cuidar a las personas, y que podamos asegurarnos de que estamos estableciendo programas que crean estos criterios de atención basados en equipos que permiten a las personas cuidar de su comunidad. Sin duda, eso también puede ayudar con algunos de los problemas que enfrentamos ahora.

Bill Walsh: Bien, muchas gracias. Jesse, volvamos a las líneas telefónicas. ¿A quién tenemos ahora?

Jesse Salinas: Sí, la próxima es de Sandy, de YouTube. Y ella dice que ha intentado durante toda la semana hacerse la prueba de COVID-19 gratis y que no pudo encontrar una farmacia que la atendiera con su tarjeta. Trató en CVS y Walgreens. ¿Tiene alguna idea sobre cómo debería abordar esto?

Bill Walsh: Doctora, ¿puede contestar?

Meena Seshamani: Sí, absolutamente. Y gracias por llamar nuestra atención sobre eso. CVS y Walgreens están en nuestra iniciativa. Y lo que recomendaría es llamar al 1-800-MEDICARE e informarnos sobre eso, porque nos aseguraremos de trabajar con nuestros socios farmacéuticos para asegurarnos de que pueda tener acceso.

Bill Walsh: En términos generales, recuerdo que fue hace uno o dos meses cuando vimos una escasez real de pruebas de COVID-19 en el hogar. ¿Ha mejorado el suministro en todo el país?

Meena Seshamani: Diré que en Medicare no somos necesariamente responsables del suministro. Así que me remito a los expertos en esta materia. Pero lo que sí diré es que todos estamos trabajando al máximo para asegurarnos de que tenemos acceso. Y por eso era tan importante crear esta iniciativa para pagar las pruebas de venta libre.

Bill Walsh: Está bien, muy bien. Jesse, ¿a quién tenemos ahora?

Jesse Salinas: Sí. Nuestra próxima pregunta es de Jim, en Illinois.

Bill Walsh: Hola, Jim, bienvenido al programa. Adelante con su pregunta.

Jim: Gracias. Sí. Sí, mi pregunta era, si tomamos una prueba en casa y recibimos un resultado positivo, ¿debemos continuar con una prueba de, por ejemplo, uno de esos lugares de servicio desde el automóvil para validar la prueba?

Bill Walsh: Gracias por eso, Jim, doctora, ¿cuáles son los pasos si uno obtiene un resultado positivo en la prueba?

Meena Seshamani: Sí, definitivamente diría que el sitio web de los CDC y hablar con su médico local son los pasos más importantes cuando tienen un resultado positivo, para asegurarse de que están haciendo todo lo posible para ponerse en cuarentena y aislarse para no contagiar a otros, y también para asegurarse de cuidarse de la mejor manera posible mientras se recupera. Y de verdad les deseo una pronta recuperación.

Bill Walsh: Bien, muchas gracias por eso. Jesse, ¿a quién tenemos ahora?

Jesse Salinas: Nuestra próxima pregunta vendrá de Nate, en Illinois.

Bill Walsh: Hola, Nate, bienvenido al programa. Adelante con su pregunta. Hola, Nate, bienvenido. Adelante con su pregunta.

Nate: Sí, ¿está ahí?

Bill Walsh: Sí, adelante.

Nate: Lo siento. Recibimos llamadas todos los días de personas que dicen que me inscriba ahora en un nuevo programa de atención médica de Medicare. ¿Este programa del que estamos hablando hoy tiene algo que ver con inscribirse en atención médica?

Bill Walsh: ¿Puede abordar eso, doctora?

Meena Seshamani: Sí, y gracias por plantear esta pregunta, porque me presenta una buena oportunidad para informarles a todos que Medicare nunca los llamará. Si alguien los llama y les pide su número de Medicare, deben colgar. Estamos trabajando arduamente para que ustedes eviten este tipo de tácticas de marketing engañosas y para asegurarnos de que obtengan información precisa y accesible sobre su cobertura de Medicare. Pero queremos asegurarnos de que no le den su número de Medicare a nadie que los llame porque, lamentablemente, hay personas que están haciendo estafas, y queremos tratar de protegerlos lo más posible de eso.

Bill Walsh: Está bien, muy bien. Quiero agradecer a nuestros oyentes por todas esas preguntas. Y vamos a volver a sus preguntas en breve. Y como recordatorio, si desean hacer una pregunta, presionen *3 en el teclado de su teléfono en cualquier momento.

Dra. Seshamani, alrededor de 48 millones de personas brindan atención no remunerada a un familiar adulto o un amigo. Nos referimos a estas personas como cuidadores familiares. ¿Cuál es la importancia de los cuidadores familiares? ¿Y cómo apoya CMS a quienes ayudan a los adultos mayores a permanecer en su hogar?

Meena Seshamani: Bill, gracias por esa pregunta. Los cuidadores familiares siempre han sido una parte muy importante de nuestra comunidad y cómo estamos apoyando a las personas con Medicare. Y creo que eso realmente pasó a primer plano con la pandemia. Sabe, realmente queremos asegurarnos de brindar una atención integral, que conecta a todos los que cuidan y eso incluye a las personas que nos cuidan en el hogar.

Por lo tanto, de qué manera podemos trabajar con su médico, con su enfermera, con su farmacéutico, con otros proveedores para asegurarnos de que también se conectan con su familia y de que estamos utilizando todos los medios para asegurarnos de que se mantienen sanos y de que su familia también recibe apoyo mientras lo cuidan.

Bill Walsh: Bueno, hablando de cuidadores familiares, ¿cuál es el valor de los cuidadores, tanto emocional como financieramente, para brindar atención a los beneficiarios de Medicare?

Meena Seshamani: Absolutamente, los cuidadores familiares cumplen una función fundamental. Y digo que, como doctora, como hija con padres en Medicare, como madre de dos niños, ser cuidadora conlleva muchos aspectos diferentes para muchas de nosotras.

Entonces, nuevamente, pensar realmente en las personas que están en el programa de Medicare como personas, no necesariamente como un paciente con un diagnóstico que viene para una visita específica al consultorio, sino como alguien que vive en un hogar, que vive en una comunidad y realmente pensando en todas las formas en que podemos asegurarnos de que lo estamos cuidando de la mejor manera posible.

Y esto se remonta a algunas de las iniciativas que tenemos, por ejemplo, tenemos estas entidades llamadas organizaciones de atención responsable donde los médicos y otros cuidadores se unen para brindar atención de alta calidad y mantener a las personas saludables para que puedan estar en el hogar y tener una alta calidad de vida.

Y estamos tratando de ampliar este tipo de programas que también pueden incluir a otro tipo de personas, como trabajadores comunitarios de la salud y administradores de la atención, que pueden asegurarse de que tengan un buen acceso a los alimentos, al transporte, a la ayuda con la vivienda, porque sabemos que hay muchas cuestiones que pueden afectar la salud de una persona, y queremos asegurarnos de que estamos abordando todo en conjunto.

Y, sabe, esto también vuelve, Bill, a lo que hablábamos antes, cuando hablábamos de la telesalud para los servicios de salud mental, donde podemos asegurarnos de que pueda acceder a la atención a través de su teléfono, especialmente si vive en una zona rural y no tiene banda ancha. Estos son todos los tipos de cosas en las que estamos pensando en el programa Medicare, porque mantenemos a esos 63 millones de personas al frente y al centro de todo lo que hacemos.

Bill Walsh: Bien, gracias Dra. Meena Seshamani, directora del Centro de Medicare. Vamos a plantearle más preguntas en un momento y vamos a tomar más preguntas en vivo en breve. Como recordatorio para nuestros oyentes, para ponerse en la fila para hacer su pregunta en vivo, presionen *3 en el teclado de su teléfono o dejen su pregunta en la sección de comentarios en Facebook o YouTube.

En este momento quiero traer a Nancy LeaMond. Nancy es vicepresidenta ejecutiva y directora de Activismo y Compromiso de AARP. Ella actualizará a nuestros oyentes sobre cómo AARP está luchando por ellos. Bienvenida, Nancy.

Nancy LeaMond: Hola, Bill. Encantada de estar aquí.

Bill Walsh: Muy bien. Estamos contentos de tenerla. ¿Cuáles son las últimas noticias en el frente de la defensa?

Nancy LeaMond: Bueno, reducir los precios de los medicamentos recetados sigue siendo nuestra principal prioridad. Encuestas recientes demuestran que este es el problema de salud número uno que las personas en el país quieren que el Congreso aborde este año. Y es nuestro problema número uno también.

AARP ha pedido precios de medicamentos más bajos durante años. Y estamos presionando para que los legisladores permitan a Medicare renegociar los precios de los medicamentos, poner un tope a los costos de bolsillo que pagan los adultos mayores por sus medicamentos recetados e imponer sanciones a las compañías farmacéuticas que aumentan los precios más rápido que la tasa de inflación.

Bill Walsh: Parece que finalmente estamos a punto de ver un alivio en el precio de los medicamentos recetados, y sé que los socios de AARP presionan a sus senadores para que tomen medidas.

Nancy LeaMond: Así es. El Congreso ha prometido durante años que abordaría el aumento vertiginoso de los precios de los medicamentos recetados, y nunca hemos estado tan cerca de una reforma importante de los medicamentos recetados. Más del 80% de los votantes de todos los partidos apoyan estos cambios que ayudarían a las familias a pagar los medicamentos y ahorrarían a los contribuyentes miles de millones de dólares cada año.

La Cámara de Representantes ya aprobó un proyecto de ley con las principales prioridades de AARP. Y esta semana, los socios de AARP están llamando a sus senadores para instar a la acción y estamos entregando peticiones firmadas por más de 4 millones de personas en el país. Las personas mayores están hartas y cansadas de pagar los precios más altos del mundo por sus medicamentos, y están exigiendo un cambio.

Bill Walsh: Muy bien. Ahora que hablamos de Medicare hoy, estamos encantados de escuchar sobre el mayor acceso a las pruebas gratuitas de COVID-19.

Nancy LeaMond: Sí, estamos muy complacidos de tener a las líderes de CMS como nuestras invitadas especiales hoy. Aplaudimos su trabajo por garantizar que los beneficiarios de Medicare puedan recibir fácilmente pruebas de COVID-19 para hacer en casa, gratuitas de sus farmacias.

Las pruebas son una parte crucial de la contención de la propagación del virus, y ayudan a las personas mayores a sentirse más seguras para salir y relacionarse con su familia y su comunidad. AARP continuará trabajando con los Centros de Servicios de Medicare y Medicaid para garantizar que los adultos mayores tengan acceso a la atención, el tratamiento y el apoyo durante esta pandemia.

Bill Walsh: También nos sentimos aliviados de saber sobre el progreso que se está logrando en la protección de los residentes de hogares de ancianos en todo el país.

Nancy LeaMond: Absolutamente. Desde el comienzo de la pandemia, AARP ha estado destacando la crisis en los hogares de ancianos de Estados Unidos, y hemos estado luchando por la reforma. Nadie ha sido más vulnerable a los peligros de la COVID-19 que los residentes de hogares de ancianos, por lo que nos complace ver un movimiento para mantener a los residentes más seguros.

Las agencias federales han actualizado periódicamente los datos públicos sobre los casos de COVID-19, las muertes, las vacunas y los índices de refuerzos para los residentes y el personal de los hogares de ancianos. Y ahora también hay información sobre los niveles de personal de fin de semana y la rotación de personal en el sitio web Care Compare de Medicare, para que sus seres queridos puedan ver cómo les está yendo a los hogares de ancianos.

También nos alientan las nuevas medidas propuestas por la administración para garantizar que haya personal y residentes adecuados en los hogares de ancianos, y que reciban atención segura y de calidad, el tipo de atención que merecen. Apoyamos estos cambios y apreciamos los esfuerzos de la agencia para considerar la opinión pública sobre estos temas.

Y nuevamente, quiero agradecer personalmente a la administradora Brooks-LaSure, quien sé que se unirá a nosotros pronto, y a la Dra. Seshamani por estar con nosotros hoy. Y no solo por estar con nosotros hoy, sino por trabajar muy de cerca con AARP en todos los temas, no solo los relacionados con la COVID-19 y los hogares de ancianos, sino todos los problemas de Medicare que afectan a nuestro electorado todos los días.

Bill Walsh: De acuerdo, y para encontrar ese sitio web al que Nancy hizo referencia, la gente puede conectarse y buscar Medicare Care Compare. Eso es Medicare Care Compare. Nancy, muchas gracias por estar con nosotros hoy.

Nancy LeaMond: Gracias, Bill.

Bill Walsh: Y como mencionó Nancy, en breve se nos unirá Chiquita Brooks-LaSure, la administradora de los Centros de Servicios de Medicare y Medicaid. Pero hasta entonces, volveremos a nuestras líneas telefónicas y responderemos las preguntas de nuestros oyentes. Un recordatorio para todos ustedes, si desean hacer una pregunta, simplemente presionen *3 en el teclado de su teléfono. Jesse, ¿a quién tenemos ahora en espera?

Jesse Salinas: La siguiente es de Shirley, en Massachusetts.

Bill Walsh: Hola, Shirley, bienvenida a nuestro programa. Continúe con su pregunta.

Shirley: Sí. Hola, mi pregunta de hoy es que yo recibí los ocho kits de prueba caseros para los que me inscribí y los obtuve a través de la oficina de correos, y me preguntaba cómo almacenar los kits. ¿Qué pasa si nunca lo uso y solo necesito guardarlos? ¿Los pongo en el gabinete? ¿Los pongo en el refrigerador? ¿Y cuál es la vida útil de estos kits también?

Bill Walsh: Muchas gracias por esa pregunta. Doctora, esa es una gran pregunta. ¿Qué pasa con el almacenamiento y la vida útil de estas pruebas caseras?

Meena Seshamani: Sí, gracias, Shirley, por su pregunta. Me fijaría en la caja de la prueba, debería decirle por cuánto tiempo es buena la prueba, deberían tener una fecha. Y también le dirá el rango de temperatura en el que se puede almacenar la prueba.

En términos generales, las pruebas solo se pueden almacenar en un gabinete. Pero, de nuevo, me remitiría a la caja y buscaría específicamente las instrucciones de almacenamiento del rango de temperatura. Y también, la caja debe tener una fecha en la que debe usar la prueba.

Bill Walsh: Está bien. Muy bien. Y tal vez pueda hacer, doctora, que repita alguna información provista al comienzo del programa. Parecía que Shirley había obtenido sus ocho pruebas gratis. Pero también hay pruebas disponibles de forma gratuita a través de Medicare, ¿es así?

Meena Seshamani: Eso es correcto. Entonces, a lo que se refería Shirley es a que, si ingresa a covidtest.gov, puede obtener cuatro pruebas por hogar, hasta dos veces. Entonces, eso suma ocho pruebas. Eso es covidtest.gov y la oficina de correos les enviará las pruebas por correo a su casa.

El otro programa que tenemos es aquel donde uno va a una farmacia que participa en nuestras iniciativas, muestra su tarjeta roja, blanca y azul de Medicare, y puede obtener hasta ocho pruebas por mes calendario y Medicare pagará a la farmacia por esas pruebas. Así que no tiene que pagar nada de dinero. Muestra su tarjeta roja, blanca y azul de Medicare, y pueden hacerse las pruebas y le pagaremos a la farmacia por esas pruebas. Así que son dos maneras diferentes. Estamos intentando todas las vías posibles para poder enviarles pruebas a todos ustedes.

Bill Walsh: Está bien, muy bien. Muchas gracias doctora. Y gracias por sus llamadas. Vamos a recibir más llamadas de oyentes en breve. Ahora me gustaría dar la bienvenida a Chiquita Brooks-LaSure, administradora de los Centros de Servicios de Medicare y Medicaid. La administradora Brooks-LaSure supervisa Medicare, Medicaid y el Programa de seguro médico para niños, y el mercado de seguros médicos de healthcare.gov. Bienvenida administradora, muchas gracias por estar con nosotros hoy.

Chiquita Brooks-LaSure: Gracias por recibirme. Es un placer estar aquí.

Bill Walsh: Muy bien, profundicemos en las preguntas si le parece.

Chiquita Brooks-LaSure: Por supuesto.

Bill Walsh: La FDA autorizó recientemente y los CDC recomiendan una cuarta dosis de las vacunas de Pfizer y Moderna contra la COVID-19 para personas mayores de 50 años. ¿Quién debe recibir una cuarta dosis y cuándo? ¿Y qué más deben saber nuestros oyentes?

Chiquita Brooks-LaSure: Bueno, es realmente emocionante que tengamos vacunas contra la COVID-19. Pienso en hace dos años, en dónde estábamos, y gracias a Dios, estamos en la posición en la que tenemos vacunas. Y las vacunas, que incluyen refuerzos, han sido nuestra mejor defensa en la lucha contra este virus. Por lo tanto, recomiendo encarecidamente a todos que se vacunen y luego reciban el refuerzo. Si tienen más de 50 años, a mí me falta un poco, así que espero que nos lo receten.

Pero si tienen más de 50 años, pueden recibir un segundo refuerzo al menos seis meses, lo siento, cuatro meses después de haber recibido el primer refuerzo. Y el sitio web de los CDC es un recurso maravilloso para tener la información más actualizada sobre cómo mantenerse al día con sus vacunas. Por lo tanto, les recomiendo encarecidamente que consulten el sitio web de los CDC para obtener la información más reciente sobre cómo recibir el refuerzo, la vacuna y todo lo que necesitamos saber sobre la COVID-19.

Bill Walsh: Está bien, muy bien. Y como recordatorio, ese sitio web es cdc.gov. Déjame hacer un seguimiento de eso muy rápido. Me pregunto acerca de aquellas personas que recibieron la vacuna Johnson and Johnson o que pueden estar inmunocomprometidos y tener menos de 50 años, ¿cuál es la recomendación para ellos en este momento?

Chiquita Brooks-LaSure: Depende un poco de su salud, y las personas con inmunodepresión moderada o grave tienen recomendaciones específicas de vacunación contra la COVID-19. Entonces, si entra en esa categoría, ciertamente deben prestar mucha atención a lo que recomiendan los CDC. Si uno recibió la vacuna Johnson and Johnson, puede recibir una segunda dosis de Pfizer o Moderna, y un refuerzo al menos seis meses, dos meses después de esa segunda dosis. Así que primero recibe una dosis de Pfizer o Moderna si lo desea, y luego puede obtener un refuerzo. Pero nuevamente, la mejor fuente de información es asegurarse de ir al CDC si tiene alguna pregunta.

Bill Walsh: Está bien, muy bien. Permítanme cambiar de tema y hablar sobre lo que cubre Medicare y Medicaid en este sentido. Me pregunto si hubo circunstancias en las que alguien con Medicare o Medicaid debería pagar un costo de bolsillo por la vacuna contra la COVID-19, como un copago, un deducible o una tarifa de administración.

Chiquita Brooks-LaSure: No. Si tiene Medicaid/Medicare, la vacuna, es gratis para usted.

Bill Walsh: Está bien, es muy bueno saberlo. ¿Y se requiere un número de Medicare para recibir una vacuna o refuerzo o es otra estafa?

Chiquita Brooks-LaSure: Es posible que uno sea un beneficiario de Medicare, y es posible que se le pida que muestre su tarjeta o que dé su número. Pero eso es solo porque su proveedor, el farmacéutico, el médico puede facturar a Medicare, pero uno mismo no tendrá que pagar nada de su bolsillo. Y solo un recordatorio, Medicare nunca los llamará y nunca deben dar su número de Medicare por teléfono.

Bill Walsh: Bien, gran consejo. Gracias por eso. Ahora, centrando nuestra atención en la financiación, el Congreso está trabajando actualmente en la financiación adicional para las pruebas, el tratamiento y las vacunas contra la COVID-19. ¿Por qué es tan importante un acuerdo de financiación para la COVID-19? ¿Qué está en riesgo si se retrasa o se reduce?

Chiquita Brooks-LaSure: La administración le ha dejado claro al Congreso que se necesitarán fondos adicionales para pruebas, tratamiento y vacunas para sostener nuestra respuesta a la COVID-19. Con suerte, estamos al final de esto, pero no hemos superado el desafío de COVID-19. Y por eso creemos, como administración, que es muy importante conseguir esta financiación adicional.

Sin ella, menos tratamientos, por lo que es posible que no podamos enviar a los estados tantos anticuerpos monoclonales que están tratando la COVID-19, y obstaculizará la capacidad del Gobierno para comprar estos tratamientos adicionales.

En segundo lugar, habrá menos pruebas disponibles para las personas en el país. Y como saben, poder realizar pruebas es crucial para asegurarnos de que podemos contener y controlar las infecciones por COVID-19. Significaría menos vigilancia para futuras variantes, pero no sabemos cómo seguirá mutando el virus, y queremos estar preparados si hay variantes en el futuro. Y finalmente, corremos el riesgo de quedarnos sin vacunas si no recibimos fondos adicionales para ayudar a respaldar estos esfuerzos.

Bill Walsh: Bien, parece que el acuerdo de financiación es realmente crítico para los consumidores de todo el país. Bien. Bueno, muchas gracias por eso. Y ahora, déjame cambiar de tema otra vez. La emergencia de salud pública declarada en enero del 2020, antes de que la COVID-19 se propagara por EE.UU., caducaba esta semana, pero recibirá una extensión de 90 días. ¿Cuál ha sido el papel de la declaración de emergencia de salud pública durante más de dos años y qué significa la prórroga para las personas?

Chiquita Brooks-LaSure: Así pues, hay una serie de flexibilidades y requisitos vinculados a la emergencia de salud pública. Algunas de las más importantes, las flexibilidades que se derivan de la emergencia de salud pública, han sido que los CMS han podido permitir a los estados y a los proveedores suspender algunos de sus requisitos para asegurarse de que podían hacer frente al aumento de la demanda de cobertura y atención durante la pandemia.

Como todos sabemos, los proveedores han estado en primera línea y, por lo tanto, ha habido flexibilidades importantes, flexibilidades de telesalud y estamos en el proceso de evaluar estas flexibilidades para ver qué funcionó y qué no. La otra pieza muy importante que está relacionada con la emergencia de salud pública está cubierta en nuestro programa. Estamos en cifras récord de inscripción en Medicaid y CHIP y nuestros otros programas, las tres M, como me gusta decir, el mercado y la cobertura de Medicare.

Y parte de ello se ha debido a que la emergencia de salud pública ha hecho que más personas tengan derecho, se hayan quedado en el programa de Medicaid. Entonces, una de las cosas en las que estamos muy enfocados es asegurarnos de que continuamos evaluando las reformas y los cambios como la telesalud que han demostrado ser muy eficaces, y también asegurarnos de mantener ese nivel de cobertura.

Bill Walsh: Está bien, muy bien.

Chiquita Brooks-LaSure: Y debería decir...

Bill Walsh: Oh, adelante.

Chiquita Brooks-LaSure: Oh, lo siento mucho. Solo iba a agregar que si hay más información que la gente quiera saber sobre lo que estamos haciendo y cómo está cambiando el programa de Medicare, por supuesto, pueden visitar nuestro sitio web www.medicare.gov

Bill Walsh: Bien, muchas gracias por eso. Ahora es el momento de abordar más preguntas con Chiquita Brooks-LaSure, administradora de los Centros de Servicios de Medicare y Medicaid, y la Dra. Meena Seshamani, directora de los Centros de Medicare. Como recordatorio, presionen *3 en cualquier momento en el teclado de su teléfono para conectarse con un miembro del personal de AARP y ponerse en fila para hacer su pregunta en vivo. Jesse, ¿a quién tenemos ahora en la línea?

Jesse Salinas: Sí, nuestra próxima llamada será María, de Massachusetts.

Bill Walsh: Hola, María, bienvenida al programa. Adelante con su pregunta.

María: Sí. Hola. Sí, gracias por el excelente programa. Me pregunto, ¿Medicare actualmente paga antivirales y anticuerpos monoclonales si la gente los precisa? Y la pregunta número dos, se relaciona con lo que se acaba de discutir, ¿la telesalud todavía está cubierta ahora para otros que no sean salud conductual? Gracias.

Bill Walsh: Muchas gracias, María. Tal vez la Dra. Seshamani quiera opinar sobre eso. Y si la administradora quiere agregar algo, seguramente puede hacerlo. Doctora.

Meena Seshamani: Sí. Gracias, Bill. Y gracias María por sus preguntas. En primer lugar, con respecto a los antivirales orales y los anticuerpos monoclonales, Medicare está pagando por los anticuerpos monoclonales. Para los antivirales orales, ahí es donde hemos alentado a los planes de la Parte D de Medicare a pagar una tarifa de despacho razonable a las farmacias y cubrir también los antivirales orales. Por lo tanto, continuamos haciendo del acceso a estas terapias una prioridad en la respuesta a la pandemia.

Con respecto a la segunda pregunta, todas las flexibilidades de telesalud siguen vigentes. A lo que nos referíamos antes era a la salud conductual para la salud mental, después de que termine la emergencia de salud pública, eso continuará. Pero en este momento, todavía estamos en situación de emergencia de salud pública. Además, el Congreso extendió toda la flexibilidad de telesalud, así que todo eso todavía sigue vigente.

Bill Walsh: Está bien. Muy bien. Muchas gracias por eso, doctora. Jesse, ¿quién es el siguiente en la línea?

Jesse Salinas: Nuestra próxima llamada será Jean, de Nueva York.

Bill Walsh: Hola, Jean, bienvenida a nuestro programa, continúe con su pregunta.

Jean: Bueno, tengo un pariente que está en un hogar de ancianos. Y actualmente la regla es que debe hacerse una prueba 24 horas antes de poder visitar el hogar de ancianos. No aceptan una prueba en casa. ¿Esa regla todavía se mantendrá esa norma? Porque es más difícil obtener siempre una prueba de 24 horas. Entonces, ¿eso va a cambiar pronto?

Bill Walsh: Buena pregunta, Jean. Preguntémosle a la administradora sobre eso. Administradora, ¿puede responder a esa pregunta?

Chiquita Brooks-LaSure: Claro. Bueno, solo decir que esta es una de las cosas que realmente aprendimos durante la pandemia, lo importante que es para los residentes poder ver a su familia. Y hemos querido asegurarnos de que esa protección esté vigente. Una de las cosas que debería hacer el hogar de ancianos es facilitarle ver a los miembros de su familia. Y permitimos que los centros tengan algunos requisitos en torno a las pruebas, pero me encantaría si podemos, encontrar una manera de hacer un seguimiento y comprender mejor cuál es el requisito en el hogar de ancianos que está describiendo, para asegurarnos de que dispongan de pruebas, si no están aceptando la prueba casera.

Bill Walsh: Me pregunto si este es un caso en el que Jean u otros deberían comunicarse con el defensor del pueblo de su hogar de ancianos y buscarlo también por esa vía.

Chiquita Brooks-LaSure: Oh, sí, por supuesto, por favor. Esa es una gran sugerencia. Así que por favor tenga la libertad de hacerlo. Y también no duden en ponerse en contacto con nosotros.

Bill Walsh: Y, por supuesto, Jean y otros que están escuchando, cada estado tiene un servicio de defensoría del hogar de ancianos, que es gratuito, accesible para los consumidores, y pueden ayudar con problemas como este. Jesse, volvamos a las líneas, ¿quién es el siguiente en la fila?

Jesse Salinas: Nuestra próxima llamada es Willamena, en Virginia.

Bill Walsh: Hola, Willamena. Bienvenida al programa. Adelante con su pregunta.

Willamena: Gracias. Estoy hablando por los resultados de las pruebas en casa. Hace un tiempo, los retiraron del mercado. ¿Esto sigue vigente? He oído mucho. Sé que la doctora mencionó esto, pero no tengo claro lo que está pasando.

Bill Walsh: Podría estar un poco fuera del alcance de nuestra invitada de hoy, pero me pregunto si la Dra. Seshamani puede abordar ese retiro en las pruebas caseras.

Meena Seshamani: Sí, muchas gracias por la pregunta. La iniciativa de la que hemos estado hablando de obtener ocho pruebas de venta libre por mes calendario se aplica a cualquier prueba aprobada por la FDA. Entonces, cuando vayan a la farmacia para buscar la prueba, ciertamente pueden hablar con el farmacéutico y pueden ver qué pruebas tienen disponibles, porque son esas pruebas aprobadas por la FDA las que serán parte del programa.

Bill Walsh: Está bien, pero no hemos escuchado nada sobre el retiro de cualquiera de estas pruebas caseras.

Meena Seshamani: Eso no lo sé, probablemente podamos hacer un seguimiento y averiguar, pero básicamente lo que está disponible en las farmacias está aprobado por la FDA.

Bill Walsh: Sí, pruebas aprobadas por la FDA. Muy bien. Bueno. Bueno, gracias a nuestros oyentes por esas preguntas. Responderemos más de esas preguntas en breve. Y como recordatorio para hacer una pregunta, presionen *3 en el teclado de su teléfono en cualquier momento. Volvamos a nuestros expertos por un momento. Chiquita Brooks-LaSure es la administradora de los Centros de Servicios de Medicare y Medicaid.

Administradora, aproximadamente una cuarta parte de todas las muertes por COVID-19 en EE.UU. son de residentes y personal de hogares de ancianos. La familia quiere saber si sus seres queridos están a salvo y si el personal está protegido. ¿Qué recursos hay disponibles para ayudar a proporcionar información sobre la calidad de los centros o los índices de vacunación del personal?

Chiquita Brooks-LaSure: Esta es una gran prioridad para la administración. Y como mencionó, muchas de las muertes por COVID-19 ocurrieron en hogares de ancianos. Hemos comenzado a incluir aún más información sobre la seguridad y la calidad en los hogares de ancianos en nuestro sitio web. Así que pueden ir a medicare.gov/care-compare/. Y una de las cosas que tenemos es la capacidad de los miembros de la familia para buscar en ese sitio web y ver cosas como los índices de vacunación del personal y otras medidas de calidad. Recientemente comenzamos a informar sobre los índices de rotación del personal que, según nuestra experiencia, son un indicador importante de calidad.

Bill Walsh: Está bien, muy bien. Gracias por eso, administradora. Ahora, con la noticia de la escasez de personal en los hogares de ancianos de todo el país, ¿qué pueden hacer las familias para asegurarse de que sus seres queridos no sean ignorados o pasados por alto?

Chiquita Brooks-LaSure: Esto sabemos que ha sido un problema anterior a la pandemia, pero se ha estado preguntando por varias razones, y estamos en el proceso de proponer cambios a nuestros requisitos de personal. Y por eso hemos pedido información, lo llamamos una solicitud de información. Así que estamos analizando estos problemas con mucho cuidado.

Lo primero que recomendaría a la gente es lo que acaba de sugerir, que es considerar realmente el cuidado a largo plazo y los defensores del pueblo, que son un gran recurso. Me reuní con algunos hace un par de meses mientras trabajábamos en nuestras recomendaciones para los hogares de ancianos, y su pasión por proteger a los residentes y las familias es realmente inigualable. Así que animamos a la gente a que se acerque a ellos, porque entonces sí que nos informan, a nivel gubernamental, de lo que oyen en la práctica.

Y luego animo realmente a los miembros de la familia a informar si ven una atención inadecuada, porque nuevamente, así es como aprendemos al respecto, así es como podemos hacer cambios. Y entonces, otra vía para informar son las agencias de encuestas estatales. Por eso cada estado es responsable de atender a los hogares de ancianos, y cuando reciben quejas, les ayuda a saber hacia dónde dirigir su atención.

Bill Walsh: Bien, muchas gracias por eso. Parece que si alguna vez hubo un momento para que las familias sean un defensor fuerte y abierto de sus seres queridos en los centros de enfermería, este es el momento de ser ese defensor. Administradora, durante el discurso del Estado de la Unión, el presidente dijo que se tomarán medidas significativas para abordar la seguridad y la calidad en los hogares de ancianos del país. ¿Cuáles son las prioridades? ¿Y cómo verá la familia una diferencia en la atención como resultado de esos cambios?

Chiquita Brooks-LaSure: El propio presidente está muy centrado en los cuidados a largo plazo en general, y en la calidad y seguridad de los hogares de ancianos en particular. Y nosotros, como parte del Estado de la Unión, el presidente trabajando con todos nosotros, presentamos una serie de iniciativas que vamos a emprender, una que creemos que es central es realmente ver cuál debería ser el requisito mínimo de personal para los hogares de ancianos.

Y estamos en el proceso de desarrollar ese estándar a medida que recibimos comentarios de todo tipo de partes interesadas, pero realmente queremos que este enfoque sea holístico. Y algunos de nuestros objetivos son garantizar la dotación de personal adecuada, también responsabilizar a los empleados de bajo rendimiento y luego promover las mejores prácticas porque hay lugares donde estamos viendo una buena atención y queremos asegurarnos de que todos los hogares de ancianos cumplan con los estándares de seguridad y calidad.

Y finalmente, diría que también nos enfocamos en asegurarnos de que la información de propiedad sea más transparente, en parte porque queremos asegurarnos de que las familias y otros defensores sepan a dónde acudir para asegurarse de que haya responsabilidad en algunos de estos cambios. Así que estamos en el proceso de comenzar a revelar algunas de estas propuestas, y apreciamos mucho el aporte de todo aquel que tenga una perspectiva, y con eso, quiero decir, realmente hemos estado interactuando con los propios residentes de hogares de ancianos, con asistentes de enfermería certificados y con las enfermeras, así como con la industria a medida que tratamos de avanzar para mejorar la atención en nuestros hogares de ancianos.

Bill Walsh: Está bien, muy bien. Muchas gracias por eso. Y ya hemos mencionado el programa del defensor del hogar de ancianos un par de veces. Una forma de encontrar eso para los oyentes es ir a aarp.org y simplemente buscar en defensores del pueblo. Debería aparecer un artículo relacionado con cómo encontrar un defensor del hogar de ancianos en su estado.

Ahora es el momento de abordar más preguntas con Chiquita Brooks-LaSure, administradora del Centro de Servicios de Medicare y Medicaid y la Dra. Meena Seshamani, directora del Centro de Medicare. Presionen *3 en cualquier momento en el teclado de su teléfono para conectarse con un miembro del personal de AARP para ponerse en la fila para hacer su pregunta en vivo. Jessie, ¿a quién tenemos en la línea?

Jesse Salinas: La próxima llamada será Dean, de Evergreen.

Bill Walsh: Hola, Dean, bienvenido a nuestro programa. Adelante con su pregunta. Hola, Dean, bienvenido al programa. ¿Tiene una pregunta para nosotros?

Dean: Sí, habíamos pedido una tanda, lo llamamos kit de prueba por correo y no llegó. ¿Cuál sería nuestro siguiente paso?

Bill Walsh: Bien, Dra. Seshamani, ¿quiere hablar de eso?

Meena Seshamani: Sí, gracias, Dean, por su pregunta. Y lamento escuchar que sus pruebas aún no han aparecido. Yo diría que vaya a covidtest.gov. La otra cosa, es que es posible que haya obtenido un número de confirmación que le permitirá rastrear o hacer un seguimiento. Pero covidtest.gov es el lugar indicado para las pruebas que se distribuyen por medio de la oficina de correos.

Bill Walsh: Muy bien. Muchas gracias por eso. Jesse, ¿a quién tenemos ahora?

Jesse Salinas: Nuestra próxima llamada es Ann, de Pensilvania.

Bill Walsh: Hola Ann, bienvenida a nuestro programa. Adelante con su pregunta.

Ann: Hola. Llamé al número de teléfono de Medicare que figura en mi tarjeta de Medicare, hará dos semanas mañana, para preguntar si Medicare me pagaría a mí, que tengo 66 años, para obtener mi segundo refuerzo. Y ella, la persona que contestó la línea de Medicare, me dijo que solo podría recibirla si estaba inmunocomprometida. Y pregunté cuál es la definición de inmunocomprometido de Medicare.

Me dijo que tenía que ir a mi médico para averiguar si estaba inmunocomprometida. Y dije, bueno, ¿no tengo 66 años? ¿No es esa una de las cosas que dijeron que uno puede recibir el segundo refuerzo si han pasado cuatro meses desde el último? Y ella dijo, no, tiene que tener una situación inmunocomprometida para recibir el segundo refuerzo. Entonces, ¿es esto correcto? ¿Me está dando la información correcta? Y luego, si no es así, ¿alguien puede abordar eso con Medicare de que alguien estaba dando esa información?

Bill Walsh: Ann, muchas gracias por esa pregunta. Y no hay dos personas en el país mejor situadas para responder a esa pregunta que las expertas que tenemos en línea hoy. Dra. Seshamani, usted es directora de los Centros de Medicare. ¿Le gustaría abordar eso?

Meena Seshamani: Claro. Y muchas gracias por plantear esto. De hecho, puede ir y conseguir un refuerzo. Está en lo correcto. Con su edad, puede ir, debe recibir un refuerzo si pasaron cuatro meses de la vacunación. Y gracias por mencionarlo también, porque nos aseguraremos de rectificarlo para asegurarnos de que todos los que trabajan en el centro de llamadas 1-800-MEDICARE proporcionen la información correcta.

Bill Walsh: Bien, muchas gracias por eso. Y tuvimos una llamada, Dean, hace un momento que tuvo un problema con la obtención de los kits de prueba que había pedido. Quería darle a él y a nuestros otros oyentes un número gratuito para obtener esos kits de prueba gratuitos. Es 1-800-232-0233. Eso es 800-232-0233. Jesse, ¿a quién tenemos ahora en la línea?

Jesse Salinas: Nuestra próxima pregunta es de Rose, en Texas.

Bill Walsh: Hola, Rose, bienvenida a nuestro programa.

Rose: Sí, acabo de recibir mi segunda vacuna de refuerzo. Todas las vacunas eran de Moderna. Y le di a la enfermera mi cartilla de vacunas contra la COVID-19. Ahora todo el frente está lleno. ¿Qué va a pasar cuando tengamos nuestra otra vacuna? En el otoño...

Bill Walsh: Sí.

Jesse Salinas: Creo que la hemos perdido, Bill.

Bill Walsh: Está bien. ¿Alguna de nuestras invitadas tiene alguna respuesta para eso? Parece que la tarjeta de vacunas de Rose está a punto de llenarse.

Chiquita Brooks-LaSure: Sí, habla la administradora. Este es un problema que estamos señalando con nuestros colegas en HHS. CMS no crea la cartilla de vacunación, pero somos conscientes de ello. Y se asegurará de que nuestras agencias hermanas creen el plan.

Bill Walsh: De acuerdo, muchas gracias por eso, administradora, y sólo un recurso más para nuestros oyentes. Hoy se ha hablado mucho de los hogares de ancianos y, ya sabe, de averiguar los niveles de vacunación, etc. AARP tiene un muy buen recurso para que la gente lo consulte de forma gratuita en nuestra página web. Ese sitio web es aarp.org/nursinghomedashboard, aarp.org/nursinghomedashboard. Vayan allí para encontrar lo último sobre los hogares de ancianos donde residen sus seres queridos.

También quiero agradecer a nuestras expertas y nuestros oyentes. Esta ha sido una discusión muy informativa, gracias a nuestras dos expertas por responder a nuestras preguntas hoy. Y gracias a nuestros socios, voluntarios y oyentes de AARP por participar en esta discusión.

AARP, una organización de membresía, no partidista y sin fines de lucro, ha estado trabajando para promover la salud y el bienestar de los adultos mayores durante más de 60 años. Ante esta crisis, brindamos información y recursos para ayudar a los adultos mayores y a quienes los cuidan a protegerse del virus y prevenir la propagación a otros mientras se cuidan a sí mismos.

Todos los recursos a los que se hizo referencia hoy, incluida una grabación del evento de preguntas y respuestas, se podrán encontrar en aarp.org/coronavirus a partir de mañana 15 de abril. Vayan allí si su pregunta no fue respondida y encontrarán las últimas actualizaciones, así como información creada específicamente para adultos mayores y cuidadores familiares. Y si están buscando asistencia de Medicare durante la COVID-19, visiten shiphelp.org/covid-19. Eso es shiphelp.org/covid-19.

Esperamos que hayan aprendido algo que pueda ayudarlos a ustedes y a sus seres queridos a mantenerse saludables. Acompáñennos nuevamente el 5 de mayo a la 1 p.m. para participar en otro evento de preguntas y respuestas en vivo sobre el coronavirus. Gracias y que tengan un buen día. Esto concluye nuestra llamada.

Coronavirus: Boosters, Testing and Nursing Home Safety

Listen to a replay of the live event above.

Join AARP and special guests Chiquita Brooks-LaSure, Administrator, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid, and Dr. Meena Seshamani, Deputy Administrator and Director, Center for Medicare for this live Q&A event. We will address boosters, Medicare and Medicaid coverage for coronavirus-related treatments, and COVID’s impact on the future of nursing home care and quality.

Experts:

Chiquita Brooks-LaSure
Administrator
Centers for Medicare and Medicaid

Meena Seshamani, M.D., Ph.D.
Deputy Administrator and Director
Center for Medicare


For the latest coronavirus news and advice, go to AARP.org/coronavirus.


Replay previous AARP Coronavirus Tele-Town Halls

  • May 5 - Coronavirus: Life Beyond the Pandemic
  • April 14Coronavirus: Boosters, Testing and Nursing Home Safety
  • March 24Coronavirus: Impact on Older Adults and Looking Ahead
  • March 10Coronavirus: What We’ve Learned and Moving Forward
  • February 24Coronavirus: Current State, What to Expect, and Heart Health
  • February 10 - Coronavirus: Omicron, Vaccines and Mental Wellness
  • January 27 - Coronavirus: Omicron, Looking Ahead, and the Impact on Nursing Homes
  • January 13 - Coronavirus: Staying Safe During Changing Times
  • December 16 - Coronavirus: What You Need to Know About Boosters, Vaccines & Variants
  • December 9 - Coronavirus: Boosters, Vaccines and Your Health
  • November 18 - Coronavirus: Your Questions Answered — Vaccines, Misinformation & Mental Wellness
  • November 4 - Coronavirus: Boosters, Health & Wellness
  • October 21 - Coronavirus: Protecting Your Health & Caring for Loved Ones
  • October 7 - Coronavirus: Boosters, Flu Vaccines and Wellness Visits
  • September 23 - Coronavirus: Delta Variant, Boosters & Self Care
  • September 9 - Coronavirus: Staying Safe, Caring for Loved Ones & New Work Realities
  • August 26 - Coronavirus: Staying Safe, New Work Realities & Managing Finances
  • August 12 - Coronavirus: Staying Safe in Changing Times
  • June 24 - The State of LGBTQ Equality in the COVID Era
  • June 17 - Coronavirus: Vaccines And Staying Safe During “Reopening”
  • June 3 - Coronavirus: Your Health, Finances & Housing
  • May 20 - Coronavirus: Vaccines, Variants and Coping
  • May 6 - Coronavirus: Vaccines, Variants and Coping
  • April 22 - Your Vaccine Questions Answered and Coronavirus: Vaccines and Asian American and Pacific Islanders
  • April 8 - Coronavirus and Latinos: Safety, Protection and Prevention and Vaccines and Caring for Grandkids and Loved Ones
  • April 1 - Coronavirus and The Black Community: Your Vaccine Questions Answered
  • March 25 - Coronavirus: The Stimulus, Taxes and Vaccine
  • March 11 - One Year of the Pandemic and Managing Personal Finances and Taxes
  • February 25 - Coronavirus Vaccines and You
  • February 11 - Coronavirus Vaccines: Your Questions Answered
  • January 28 - Coronavirus: Vaccine Distribution and Protecting Yourself
    & A Virtual World Awaits: Finding Fun, Community and Connections
  • January 14 - Coronavirus: Vaccines, Staying Safe & Coping and Prevention, Vaccines & the Black Community
  • January 7 - Coronavirus: Vaccines, Stimulus & Staying Safe
  • Dec 3 - Coronavirus: Staying Safe & Coping This Winter
  • Nov 19 - Coronavirus: Vaccines, Staying and A Caregiver's Thanksgiving
  • Nov 12 - Coronavirus: Coping and Maintaining Your Well-Being
  • Oct 1 - Coronavirus: Vaccines & Coping During the Pandemic
  • Sept 17 - Coronavirus: Prevention, Treatments, Vaccines & Avoiding Scams
  • Sept 3 - Coronavirus: Your Finances, Health & Family (6 months in)
  • Aug 20 - Your Health and Staying Protected
  • Aug 6 - Coronavirus: Answering Your Most Frequent Questions
  • July 23 - Coronavirus: Navigating the New Normal
  • July 16 - The Health and Financial Security of Latinos
  • July 9 - Coronavirus: Your Most Frequently Asked Questions
  • June 18 and 20 - Strengthening Relationships Over Time and  LGBTQ Non-Discrimination Protections
  • June 11 – Coronavirus: Personal Resilience in the New Normal