If severe symptoms occur, Americans can expect to pay an average of $20,000.

3 minute read

Just as quickly as COVID-19 became a public health crisis, it can throw Americans who have it into a financial crisis.

According to an analysis from the Peterson-KFF Health System Tracker, a database for health care information, the cost of inpatient admissions for COVID-19 treatment could top $20,000 with employer-covered health insurance. [1]

However, the majority of COVID-19 cases don’t go to the hospital. The CDC’s most recent data shows 12.3 percent of Americans with COVID-19 are hospitalized. [2] That number increases to 38.7 percent when looking at those 65 and over.

The Peterson-KFF analysis doesn’t apply to everyone – a woman in Boston reported a COVID-19-related bill of $34,927 – and costs depend heavily on what insurance you have if any. [3]

But here’s a rough idea of how much COVID-19 can cost you…

Testing

Last month, on top of signing a $2 trillion stimulus bill, President Donald Trump signed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, which made testing free – even if you don’t have insurance.

However, some people who get tested are still ending up with surprise bills. If you go to receive a coronavirus test and end up getting tested for something else, you can get billed. If you get tested somewhere outside of your plan’s network, you can also get billed.

Since the act was passed on March 18, only tests done after that are free. Before the act, CDC-developed COVID-19 tests cost $35.92 and $51.33 for commercial tests, according to Medicare.

Treatment

Although the initial COVID-19 test is free, a related hospital visit after that isn’t.

According to the CDC, severe complications from COVID-19 can include pneumonia, an infection that causes the lungs to fill up with fluid, in both lungs and multi-organ failure, which is often what lands people in the hospital. [4]

The Peterson-KFF study analyzed the cost of pneumonia hospitalizations in 2018.

“Beginning with the total cost of treatment, paid for by a combination of the employer plan and the employee’s out-of-pocket costs, we find that the average cost of admission for pneumonia with major complications and comorbidities is $20,292 in 2018,” the study reads. “However, costs vary greatly across the country, with admissions for pneumonia with major complications or comorbidities ranging from $11,533 to $24,178.”

The $20,292 figure comes from cases that have “major complications” or comorbidity, or an additional health condition. Cases with complications or an underlying condition averaged $13,767 and cases without complications averaged $9,763.

Those with employer-covered health insurance could still face out of pocket costs over $1,300, the study also said.

So far, there’s been no federal aid to help uninsured Americans pay for COVID-19 hospitalizations, if needed. Tests are free for everybody, and uninsured Americans can still qualify for Trump’s stimulus package.

The cost of any hospital stay – COVID-19 related or not – increases dramatically when there’s ventilator support involved. That’s because patients who require them tend to stay at the hospital much longer than people who don’t.

The median total, according to the Peterson-KFF study, of patients with a respiratory problem that were on ventilator support for 96 hours or more jumped to $88,114. (Remember, the average cost with major complications was $20,292.)

In that case, the average hospital stay was 22 days.

Surprise billing

Surprise billing refers to costs you owe out-of-network when you’re admitted to an in-network hospital.

The Peterson-KFF study accounted for that, too. They found that one in five people (18 percent) admitted with pneumonia and developed major complications were subject to surprise billing. The chances of surprise billing decreased to 15 percent for other medical conditions.

Sometimes, hospitals mistakenly charge you for procedures that you didn’t receive, which is why you should always review your medical bill. Checking for errors can save you thousands of dollars.

Did we provide the information you needed? If not let us know and we’ll improve this page.
Let us know if you liked the post. That’s the only way we can improve.
Yes
No

About the Author

Kristen Grau

Kristen Grau

Kristen Grau interns at Debt.com. When Grau is out of the office, she serves as the managing editor of Florida Atlantic University's student-run newspaper, the University Press, and is the Palm Beach County editor of South Florida Gay News.

Published by Debt.com, LLC