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Coronavirus Antibody Test: What Is It and Does Medicare Cover It?

Coronavirus Antibody Test: What Is It and Does Medicare Cover It?

Have you heard about the coronavirus antibody test? Supposedly, taking this test can tell you if you've had COVID-19 before. Medicare explains this test can help see if you're not at immediate risk of COVID-19 reinfection.

As you can probably guess, there's some gray area here, including concern about false positives and whether a positive result means you're immune to COVID-19.

So, where can you get the COVID-19 antibody test in Decatur, Illinois? And does Medicare cover this antibody test? We've gathered up everything you need to know about the coronavirus antibody, or serology, test.

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What Is the Coronavirus Antibody Test?

The coronavirus antibody test, or the serology test, checks for a type of antibody called immunoglobulin G (IgG). If you've been exposed to the virus that causes COVID-19, your body typically produces these antibodies as part of your immune response.

According to the CDC, "antibodies are proteins that help fight off infections and can provide protection against getting that disease again (immunity)."

If you think you've had COVID-19 before, an antibody test can help. A positive test presumes you've had COVID-19 before.

Problems with the Coronavirus Antibody Test

COVID-19 has been somewhat of a mystery, and although we've learned a lot about it in the last 12 months, a lot is still unknown.

The coronavirus antibody test can help people understand if they've had COVID-19 before, but the test results aren't always accurate. The common cold can trigger a false positive, getting tested too soon or too late could trigger a false negative, and we don't really know the implications of a positive result just yet.

False Positives

When taking the antibody test, there's a chance you could get a false-positive result. The virus that causes COVID-19 isn't the only coronavirus that causes your body to create IgG antibodies.  

Viruses that cause the common cold can cause your body to produce IgG antibodies, giving you a potentially false-positive antibody test (FDA.gov).

Antibody Timeframes

Another factor that complicates the antibody test is how long it takes antibodies to develop and how long they stick around.

According to the FDA, it can take days – or even weeks – for antibodies to develop in your body following exposure to a SARS-COV-2 infection. Plus, "it is unknown how long they stay in the blood."

So, there's a chance you've had COVID-19 before, even if you get a negative test result.

Antibodies and Immunity

There isn't enough research yet to determine if antibodies' presence means you're immune to COVID-19.

LabCorp explains that typically, having antibodies means you're immune from further infection, but there isn't enough evidence yet specific to COVID-19. So, if you get a positive result from your antibody test, you might be immune to future COVID-19 infections. But maybe not.

The CDC reports that there have been rare cases where people have been reinfected with COVID-19. Scientists are still working to understand this.

Who Should Get the COVID-19 Antibody Test?

The antibody test can't tell you if you're currently infected with COVID-19, but it can help determine if you've had COVID-19 in the past.  

Medicare explains this test can help see if you're not at immediate risk of COVID-19 reinfection. While we aren't positive a previous infection provides immunity, this is how most other viruses work.

You might consider getting the COVID-19 antibody test if you think you've had COVID-19 and do not currently have symptoms. The antibody test cannot diagnose COVID-19. It takes 1-3 weeks for antibodies to develop, so if you've been exposed very recently, you may get a negative test result.

No matter what your COVID-19 antibody test result is, the CDC says you should still follow the same precautions until we know more:

  • Wear a mask to protect yourself and others.
  • Stay at least 6 feet from others who don't live with you.
  • Avoid crowds.
  • Wash your hands often.
  • Cover coughs and sneezes.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces daily.
  • Monitor your health daily – watch for symptoms and take your temperature if they develop.

Does Medicare Cover the COVID-19 Antibody Test?

Medicare Part B, your medical insurance, will cover the COVID-19 antibody, or serology, test. You pay nothing for this test (Medicare.gov).

Even if you don't have a Medicare Supplement, this test is still free.

Medicare also covers:

  • COVID-19 tests: this test confirms if you have coronavirus (COVID-19).
  • COVID-19 monoclonal antibody treatments: this FDA-authorized treatment involves an infusion of monoclonal antibodies (specifically bamlanivimab, or casirivimab and imdevimab) to treat COVID-19. You must meet specific criteria to be eligible for Medicare coverage of this treatment.
  • COVID-19 vaccines: this reduces the risk of illness from COVID-19 by working with your body's natural defenses to safely develop immunity to the virus. The vaccine must be FDA-approved for Medicare to cover it.

Medicare Advantage and the COVID-19 Antibody Test

If you have a Medicare Advantage plan, the antibody test is also covered in full.  

A helpful reminder is Medicare Advantage plans are required to cover all Medicare Part A and B services. If Original Medicare covers the coronavirus antibody test, your Medicare Advantage plan must follow suit.

Where to Get the COVID-19 Antibody Test In Decatur, IL

If you'd like to get the COVID-19 antibody test, talk to your healthcare provider. They can put in a lab order for you. The most popular providers of the antibody test are Quest Diagnostics and LabCorp, but you will need a lab order from your healthcare provider.

We checked with many pharmacies in the Decatur, IL area, and the only one offering antibody testing is Kroger. It's a rapid test done via a finger prick, giving you results in 15 minutes.

Visit Kroger's website to schedule an appointment. This test does not get billed to your Medicare insurance. It is a $25 flat fee for everyone, regardless of what insurance they have. If you'd like the Kroger antibody test, you will have to pay the $25 fee out-of-pocket.

As far as local pharmacies go, we can confirm that Dale's Southlake Pharmacy and Colee's Corner Drug are not offering the antibody test at this time.

Conclusion

The COVID-19 antibody, or serology, test can help you know if you've had COVID-19 in the past. While there's still more research needed, knowledge is power! Understanding your history with COVID-19 can help you make more informed decisions in the future.

Ask your healthcare provider about getting an antibody test, which Medicare covers in full. If you prefer a quick and easy solution, schedule an appointment at Kroger, and you can have a rapid test done for $25.

We'll keep you updated on the COVID-19 vaccine as it is rolled out, but know that Medicare will cover that in full as well.

If you need help with your Medicare plan, give us a call at 217-423-8000. Our team of licensed agents can help you!

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