The Trump administration’s pledge to protect Covid-19 patients from massive medical bills is falling short for a growing number of survivors who experience long-term complications from the virus.
Doctors are discovering life-threatening and costly long-term health effects ranging from kidney failure to heart and lung damage. That’s exposing a major gap in the federal government’s strategy for ensuring patients won’t go broke because of a coronavirus diagnosis.
Patients with and without insurance have already been hit with staggering bills, despite a White House promise to cover their costs, according to patient advocates. That’s because health care providers and insurers are classifying some complications as distinct from the virus during the billing process. The extent of the problem is still not fully known due to the lag time in settling medical claims.
Private health insurers, including many the White House prodded to waive full treatment costs for patients diagnosed with coronavirus, haven’t committed to extending those generous coverage policies to patients dealing with virus-related conditions weeks or months later. Some that only cover in-network care are rejecting bills from out-of-network specialists.
Some of the treatment costs worry patient advocates and policymakers. Charges for a six-day hospital stay for a coronavirus patient with an underlying health condition or complications average more than $74,000 according to FAIR Health, a nonprofit that analyzes claims data, although commercial plans would pay an average of just under $39,000 for the treatment.Cases with fewer complications would stillincur charges averagingmore than $53,000 for a six-day stay.
The consulting firm Avalere recently projected that a typical hospital stay for coronavirus patients is nearly $23,500. But insurers still don’t have a clear picture of potential long-term costs, especially if patients need long rehab after weeks on ventilators, or dialysis if they suffer kidney failure.
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