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Even with health insurance, you could pay over $1,300 for COVID-19 treatment

Even with health insurance, you could pay over $1,300 for COVID-19 treatment
(Image credit: Getty)

As coronavirus cases multiply in America, one concern many people have is: who is going to pay if they need treatment for COVID-19? One predicted cost, suggested by the Peterson Centre on Healthcare and the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF), is that people with health insurance from their employer could expect to pay at least $1,300 in out-of-pocket costs for medical care, if hospitalized with a severe case of COVID-19.

This predicted cost, recently featured in analysis compiled by the Peterson Centre and KFF, is based on costs associated with hospitalization for pneumonia, another respiratory illness. COVID-19 is caused by coronavirus, which can affect your lungs and airways, much like pneumonia. 

The analysis was compiled by Matthew Rae, Associate Director at KFF, and a series of co-authors who analyzed a database of insurance claims for people enrolled in employer insurance plans. The total cost of treatments for people on such plans who were hospitalized with pneumonia complications ranged from $11,000 to $24,000. The majority of costs were covered by insurers, with out-of-pocket costs to individuals reaching around $1,300 or more.

The analysis did not cover surprise medical bills, which may arise if a doctor outside of the patient’s insurance network becomes involved in treatment. According to the report, COVID-19 medical care costs may be higher still, once protective equipment and isolation costs are factored in.

What if you don’t have health insurance?

According to a 2019 KFF report on uninsured Americans, the number of uninsured people increased to 27.9 million non-elderly individuals in 2018. Last year, around 23% of Americans lacked dental insurance too. As such, there is a real concern that some people won’t seek care because of the associated costs of COVID-19 treatment – in 2019, 25% of Americans said they or a family member put off medical treatment because of the cost.

Following President Donald Trump’s claims on March 11 that major US insurance companies had agreed to “waive all copayments for coronavirus treatments”, a spokesperson for America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP) clarified that some companies are only waiving copays for testing. 

In reaction to the Coronavirus pandemic, Congress's Emergency Coronavirus Bill now includes free Coronavirus testing for all, including the uninsured. As of March 11, 7,695 people were tested for COVID-19 in America.

Even with health insurance, you could pay over $1,300 for COVID-19 treatment

(Image credit: Getty)

Elsewhere, in response to the current Public Health Emergency, Medicare, the health insurance program that primarily covers Americans aged 65 and over, has temporarily expanded its coverage of telehealth services so that people can ‘visit’ with their health care professional without leaving home, and therefore lowering their risk of exposure to the virus. 

These services include increased information and access from different devices, such as many of the best smartphones, and interaction with an extended range of health providers including doctors, nurse practitioners and clinical psychologists. 

What to do if you have COVID-19 symptoms?

The following Coronavirus symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure:

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath

According to official Coronavirus advice published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), you should call your healthcare provider for medical advice if you think you have been exposed to COVID-19 and develop a fever and symptoms, including  a new cough and difficulty breathing. 

There’s also detailed information in The President’s Coronavirus Guidelines For America about what to do if you feel sick, if your children are sick, if someone in your household has tested positive for COVID-19, or if you are an older person or have an underlying health condition.