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 has been reporting and editing in various journalism roles for nearly a decade. Most recently, she was the senior editor of FierceHealthPayer, an e-newsletter covering the health insurance industry. A graduate of Penn State University, she previously served in editing roles at newspapers in Pennsylvania, Virginia and Colorado.

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