With the coronavirus outbreak escalating, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has emphasized (opens in new tab) the importance of consulting your doctor to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. However, recent findings (opens in new tab) from Bankrate have revealed that an alarming amount of Americans are avoiding medical costs by skipping out on medical care entirely. The survey found that 'nearly 1 in 3 U.S. families (32%) decided not to seek medical care in the past 12 months because of cost'.
Measures have been taken recently to ensure that those who may be carrying COVID-19 are not put off getting tested, with the White House promising (opens in new tab) "no surprise billing" for coronavirus testing and treatment, in agreement with major health insurers. However, with a massive 54% of people (opens in new tab)with medical debt already defaulting on payment, many fear that people will avoid the risk of unexpected medical costs by not getting treatment for this coronavirus.
Speaking to Bankrate, Stephen Zuckerman, senior fellow and vice president for health policy at the Urban Institute, said “if people don’t believe that the testing is going to be free, they could resist getting tested when they suspect that they may have the illness."
It's well-known that the immunocompromised and older adults have a much greater risk of complications or death if they contract COVID-19. With 40% of millennials (people aged between 23 and 38) saying they have avoided medical care because of cost, the risk of coronavirus going untested and untreated also raises collective concerns for the vulnerable people the virus may spread to. “Even if someone has mild symptoms, they could transmit it to someone who might end up having a more severe reaction.”
How Americans afford treatment
For those who do seek medical treatment, Bankrate has found that 'Almost 1 in 10 had to take on substantial debt, while 8% had to borrow money from friends or family and 7% had to tap into their retirement savings.' A further 3% sought help from the best debt consolidation companies (opens in new tab) or declared bankruptcy.
Many have faith in the best health insurance companies (opens in new tab) to keep costs manageable, but Bankrate found that 'having insurance won’t entirely fix the problem'.
More so than any other group (including the uninsured), 44% of families with privately purchased plans have avoided medical care due to cost.
Vice President Mike Pence has recently said (opens in new tab) that "all of our major health insurance companies have now joined with Medicare and Medicaid and agreed to waive all copays". They will also "cover the cost of all treatment for those who contract the coronavirus". For those with insurance, this should come as welcome news, and encourage them to seek testing and medical care when necessary.