The high costs of healthcare for getting treated for COVID-19

Johns Hopkins Medical Director breaks down costs
Posted at 7:49 AM, Apr 14, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-14 09:52:40-04

BALTIMORE — The first thing on a person's mind after testing positive for COVID-19 might be their healthcare.

Second, some patients also might be worried how much it will cost them.

Johns Hopkins Medicine senior medical director Dr. Scott Berkowitz said "this is about people. It's about patients and families and trying to do right by them, and trying to help all as a big team, to get through this together."

Researchers at the Peterson and Kaiser Family Foundation took a look at the costs to hospitals, patients, and providers for COVID-19 and compared it to similar costs of treatment for pneumonia.

They found in-patient treatment for COIVD-19 could cost employer health insurance and the people enrolled in those plans more than $9,000 for patients without complications and more than $20,000 for those with serious complications or those who have underlying health issues.

The price can skyrocket the longer a patient stays in the hospital, especially if they need a ventilator.

"More than four days with a ventilator, that costs and that hospitalization tends to costs more than $90,000, while it's more in the 30's for those hospitalized four days or less," Berkowitz said.

It can be a significant amount of money for someone who might not have health insurance.

For those who have coverage, much of the expense may be paid by their insurance, depending upon their specific plan.

The study also found, nearly one out of every five patients admitted in-network for pneumonia ended up with a surprise bill out of network. iI's something a White House spokesperson says the Trump administration is working on to prevent.

"Typically, employer sponsored plans will have about a $1400 on average deductible. In addition to that, the out-of-pocket expenses that may be expected for a patient who's hospitalized with a COVID related infection could be up as high as $1400 dollars as well," Berkowitz said.

The non-profit group Fair Health estimates total hospital charges for COVID-19 treatment in the U.S. could range from about $360 billion to â $1.45 trillion. This comes as the healthcare industry will have to figure out who will pay for it.

"There is some support that's coming through the stimulus bill to the hospitals and I know that that's being worked out right now. I think that that's to help keep the providers and healthcare industry harmless but clearly there's tremendous complexity here around the financial side. I would imagine some of these things need to be worked out over time," Berkowitz said.

Other costs for people with health insurance to consider is their out-of-pocket maximum.

For some plans, the cost could be as high as $10,000.

Meanwhile, for the uninsured, there are social workers and financial support staff at hospitals who can connect patients with programs and services to help get them get through it.

"And they may meet a patient, and it's very possible that that patient may have been eligible for insurance and never enrolled or there may be other reasons for which that patient may not be getting access to certain services that they could based on their background, and other areas of their status," Berkowitz said.

"In doing that and taking that time to understand that patient, and that patient's needs and background, it's very possible that patient or family may then be eligible for additional services or financial support that they didn't know existed" Berkowitz added.