The cost of COVID-19 hospital care and surprise bills

Coronavirus

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — This might spook you more than Halloween. There are some new frightening figures out of the costs of COVID-19 hospital care. A new study has found the average cost is around $40,000 and for some senior patients, it can be even higher.

Fair Health, an independent nonprofit that works to bring transparency to health care, took a look at private health care claims for patients hospitalized with coronavirus around the nation. The nonprofit found the median charge amount for hospitalization of a COVID-19 patient ranged from $34,662 for the 23-30 age group to $45,683 for the 51-60 age group.

Fair Health also found costs varied by region. For someone over the age of 70 hospitalized in the West, the costs could top $90,000.

“Thankfully, Congress did put safeguards in place for patients that are receiving COVID treatment or care,” said Clare Krusing with The Coalition Against Surprise Medical Billing. Krusing is talking about a provider relief fund set up by Congress to help hospitals and doctors.

In addition, most insurance companies promised to cover coronavirus hospital stays in full, even out-of-network costs. Yet, Krusing says some patients rushed in for COVID-19 and who needed additional care for existing health conditions are getting a rude awakening in the mail.

“Often times that’s when surprise bills can happen,” she explained.

Plus there’s been some gaps in those promised to cover out-of-network costs that are leaving patients saddled with debt.

“In many cases, we are talking hundreds of thousands of dollars,” said Krusing.

Some out of network specialists like anesthesiologists and medical labs didn’t get any help from Congress and now patients are getting hit with surprise bills.

“Those anesthesiologists are one of the specialist that often times do operate out outside of the insurance networks,” Krusing said.

Krusing suggests if you get hit with an outrageous bill to try and negotiate with all involved. She also advises you to know your rights to appeal.

“Most Americans right now can’t afford a $400 surprise bill,” said Krusing. 

The Coalition Against Surprise Medical Billing has more suggestions and questions to ask, if you can, ahead of a surgery or medical procedure. You can find that on their website.

There was a bipartisan bill in Congress to put an end to surprise medical bills, ironically it got postponed just before the pandemic struck. Krusing believes legislation is key. Her group is hopeful Congress can pass the Stop Surprise Medical Bill Act this year.

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