According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), older adults and people who have severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung, or kidney disease seem to be at higher risk for more serious COVID-19 illness. As a result, seniors should take extra precautions to avoid contracting the virus. A full list of guidelines to prevent the spread of the virus from the CDC can be found here.
How does the CARES Act help seniors?
With the recent passage of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES) Act, Congress has allocated significant resources for states to serve older Americans. The following information will help guide seniors through the resources available to them.
Health and Supportive Services
Funding for Supportive Services: The new law contains provisions that allow seniors to practice social distancing while also receiving the services they require. These include:
- $200 million for Home and Community Based Services (HCBS) to ensure that seniors can receive the services they need in their homes.
- $480 million for senior nutrition programs to serve individuals in their homes.
- $100 million for the National Family Caregiver Support Program to assist caregivers.
- $50 million for Aging and Disability Resource Centers to better administer long-term services and supports.
- $300 million for the Social Security Administration to maintain essential services and process claims for retirement and disability benefits.
90-Day Supply of Certain Prescription Medications: Under the CARES Act, during the COVID-19 public health emergency, people with a Medicare prescription drug plan may be able to receive up to 90 days of a prescription if that is what the doctor prescribed, as long as there are no safety concerns or coverage restrictions. Medicare prescription drug plans will also allow people to fill prescriptions early for refills up to 90 days, depending on the prescription. Contact your health plan for more information on filling prescriptions early and accessing 90-day supplies.
Medicare Coverage of COVID-19 Vaccine at No Cost: The law requires Medicare to cover any future coronavirus vaccine with no cost-sharing (meaning no deductible, coinsurance, or copayment) to seniors and people with disabilities who have Medicare.
One-time Stimulus Payment: Recipients of Social Security benefits are eligible to receive a one-time $1,200 stimulus payment ($2,400 for couples), subject to income limitations.
Increased Loan Limits from Certain Retirement Accounts: The CARES Act doubles the current limit on loans from 401(k) and certain other tax-deferred retirement plans to $100,000 for people who are diagnosed with COVID-19 or experience related economic losses.
Early Distributions: The CARES Act waives the additional 10 percent tax on early distributions from IRAs and defined contribution plans (such as 401(k)s) in the case of coronavirus-related distributions between January 1 and December 31, 2020. This is consistent with previous disaster-related relief. Income from these distributions would be subject to tax over three years. Distributions are limited to $100,000, and may be re-contributed to the plan or IRA.
Suspends Required Minimum Distributions (RMD): The law suspends the need to take RMDs from deferred accounts for retirees, including RMDs due by April 1, 2020 because the account owner turned 70 ½ in 2019. This will allow retirees to maintain more savings during this pandemic.
I have Medicare. Will I have to pay for COVID-19 testing?
Both Original Medicare and Medicare Advantage plans will cover the cost of any testing for COVID-19. People with Medicare will not pay any cost-sharing (meaning no deductible, coinsurance, or copayment). Information on how COVID-19 affects other aspects of Medicare can be found here.
I have Medicare. Will I have to pay for a future COVID-19 vaccine?
There is currently no vaccine for COVID-19. Once one is developed, people with Medicare will not pay any cost-sharing (meaning no deductible, coinsurance, or copayment). Information how COVID-19 affects other aspects of Medicare can be found here.
I want to find resources in my local community in Pennsylvania. Whom do I contact?
Will I get a cash payment if I receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)?
Individuals who receive SSI and SSDI are eligible for the direct payment as long as their income does not exceed the limit.
The direct cash payments would provide $1,200 for a single adult, $2,400 for married couples, and $500 for each child under age 17. The rebate is reduced depending on your household income. The value of the rebate will be reduced over the following income ranges:
- Single Filers: Phase-out begins at $75,000 and ends at $99,000.
- Heads of Household: Phase-out begins at $112,500 and ends at $146,500 for a family of 2; this will be higher for larger families.
- Married Filing Jointly: Phase-out begins at $150,000 and ends at $198,000; this will be higher for families with children.
Will I need to fill out any other forms to get the economic impact payment? If I get Social Security benefits or Supplemental Security Income benefits, do I have to file taxes to get the check?
If you filed a tax return in 2018 or 2019, the federal government will automatically send you a direct deposit or check using the information on your tax return. You will not need to fill out additional forms.
If you receive Social Security retirement or disability benefits or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits, the federal government will automatically send you the economic impact payment using information you provided to the Social Security Administration. If you have qualifying dependent children under age 17 and do not normally file taxes, you may need to provide the IRS additional information to claim the $500 payment per child. If you only began receiving Social Security or SSI benefits in 2020, you may also need to provide the IRS additional information to get your check. Information on who must provide this information and how to do so can be found here.
Last Updated: April 17, 2020