Americans being treated for coronavirus at a hospital could be hit with medical bills topping $20,000.
A Kaiser Family Foundation report says that US adults may face such astronomical bills even when figuring for insurance coverage and out-of-pocket costs.
Patients who suffer complications could be looking at a nearly $20,300 tab, but someone admitted to the hospital who doesn’t suffer complications could have to pay nearly $10,000.
Without thousands of sickened people across the US hospitalized, doctors and nurses worry that – once they are discharged – they could be facing hundreds of thousands of dollars in surprise medical bills.
In the US, there are more than 59,000 confirmed cases of the virus and more than 800 deaths.
Researchers looked at claims filed by Americans who were hospitalized with pneumonia, a complication of COVID-19, in 2018. Pictured: EMTs lift a patient into an ambulance as the outbreak of coronavirus continues, in New York City, March 24
People who suffered major complications paid $20,292 on average for treatment with a combination of insurance and out-of-pocket costs. Pictured: Medical personnel treat a woman shortly after she arrived at a coronavirus mobile testing in The Villages, Florida, March 23
For people without complications, their out-of-pocket costs averaged $1,464. Pictured: Medics transport a patient from an ambulance into Life Care Center of Kirkland – the epicenter of cases in Washington state – on March 24
For the report, the team looked at the typical costs for a patient who is admitted to a hospital for pneumonia, one of the most serious complications of COVID-19.
Researchers analyzed data from the IBM MarketScan Commercial Claims and Encounters claims database, including claims from 18 million people covered by employer plans in 2018.
The team only included claims for people who were under age 65 because those who are older are typically covered by Medicare.
They found that, when paid for by a combination of insurance and out-of-pocket, people who suffered major complications paid $20,292 on average for treatment.
For minor complications, patients paid an average of $13,767, and those with no complications paid about $9,763.
Then researchers then looked at costs paid out-of-pocket, which include deductibles co-pays, and cost-sharing, for pneumonia hospital stays.
For people without complications, their out-of-pocket costs averaged $1,464 and costs averaged $1,365 for those with minor complications.
The report’s authors warn Americans to be aware of surprise billing.
‘Essentially, it’s two situations,’ Matthew Rae, associate director of the Healthcare Marketplace Project at the Kaiser Family Foundation, told Yahoo Money.
‘One is to go to in-network hospitals. You did your research, you found a hospital which is in your provider network, and then you end up seeing a provider who’s not part of your network.’
Rae said that even if a hospital is in network, certain staff members such as radiologists may not be.
This can lead to balance billing,, which occurs when a healthcare provider bills a patient for the difference between the total cost of services and the amount the insurance pays.
‘When you get a balance bill, it’s typically a much higher cost,’ Rae told Yahoo Money.
‘And these bills can be very expensive for people and importantly, these are financial protections that are baked into your insurance plan. So out-of-pocket maximums don’t apply to spending.’
On Wednesday, Aetna announced that it would be waiving inpatient hospital bills, including co-pays and out-of-pocket costs, for members treated for COVID-19.
Cigna and UnitedHealthcare told Yahoo Money that they would be waiving the cost of testing but not necessarily treatment.