Spread of COVID-19 Sparks Worry About Treatment Costs

Though many health insurers have removed cost barriers related to testing patients for the new coronavirus that’s sweeping the globe (HPW 3/16/20, p. 1), they largely haven’t pledged to waive out-of-pocket costs for severely sickened members who require hospitalization. A new analysis suggests that the cost of caring for those patients could be steep for members and health plans alike, but experts tell AIS Health it may be too early to say what that will actually mean for commercial insurance markets.

The analysis, from the Peterson Center on Healthcare and the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF), examined claims from 18 million people enrolled in large-employer health plans in 2018 who were admitted to the hospital with pneumonia. While most people who contract the new coronavirus experience only mild symptoms including fever and cough, other individuals — usually those with other medical conditions — develop severe, potentially fatal symptoms such as pneumonia. The virus originated in China late last year, and the disease it causes, COVID-19, is now classified as a pandemic. As of March 20, there were at least 12,392 confirmed cases in the United States and 195 deaths.

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Leslie Small

Leslie Small

Leslie has been working in journalism since 2009 and reporting on the health care industry since 2014. She has covered the many ups and downs of the Affordable Care Act exchanges, the failed health insurer mega-mergers, and hundreds of other storylines spanning subjects such as Medicaid managed care, Medicare Advantage, employer-sponsored insurance, and prescription drug coverage. As the managing editor of Health Plan Weekly and Radar on Drug Benefits, she writes and edits for both publications while overseeing a small team of reporters who also focus on the managed care sector. Before joining AIS Health, she was a senior editor for the e-newsletter Fierce Health Payer, and she started her career as a copy editor at multiple local newspapers. She graduated with a dual degree in journalism and political science from Penn State University.

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