How Much Would Trump’s Coronavirus Treatment Cost Most Americans?

The New York Times is investigating the costs associated with testing and treatment for the coronavirus and how the pandemic is changing health care in America. You can read more about the project and submit your medical bills here.

President Trump spent three days in the hospital. He arrived and left by helicopter. And he received multiple coronavirus tests, oxygen, steroids and an experimental antibody treatment.

For someone who isn’t president, that would cost more than $100,000 in the American health system. Patients could face significant surprise bills and medical debt even after health insurance paid its share.

The biggest financial risks would come not from the hospital stay but from the services provided elsewhere, including helicopter transit and repeated coronavirus testing.

Mr. Trump has praised the high quality of care he received at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, and has played down the risk of the virus. “Don’t be afraid of Covid,” Mr. Trump tweeted on Monday, before returning to the White House. “Don’t let it dominate your life.”

Across the country, patients have struggled with both the long-term health and financial effects of contracting coronavirus. Nearly half a million have been hospitalized. Routine tests can result in thousands of dollars in uncovered charges; hospitalized patients have received bills upward of $400,000.

Mr. Trump did not have to worry about the costs of his care, which are covered by the federal government. Most Americans, including many who carry health coverage, do worry about receiving medical care they cannot afford.

For some Americans, the bills could start mounting with frequent tests. Insurers are generally required to pay for those tests when physicians order them, but not when employers do.

The Trump administration made that clear in June, when it issued guidance stating that insurers do not have to pay for “testing conducted to screen for general workplace health and safety.” Instead, patients need to pay for that type of testing themselves. Some might be able to get free tests at public sites, and some employers may voluntarily cover the costs. Others could face significant medical debt from tests delivered at hospitals or urgent care centers.

Health economists are only starting to understand the full costs of coronavirus treatment, just as scientists are mapping out how the disease works and spreads. They do have some early estimates: The median charge for a coronavirus hospitalization for a patient over 60 is $61,912, according to a claims database, FAIR Health

That figure includes any medical care during the hospital stay, such as an emergency room visit that led to admission or drugs provided by the hospital.

For insured patients, that price would typically be negotiated lower by their health plan. FAIR Health estimates that the median amount paid is $31,575. That amount, like most things in American health care, varies significantly from one patient to another.

In the FAIR Health data on coronavirus patients over 60, a quarter face charges less than $26,821 for their hospital stay. Another quarter face charges higher than $193,149, in part because of longer stays.

Many, but not all, health insurers have said they will not apply co-payments or deductibles to patients’ coronavirus hospital stays, which could help shield patients from large bills.

Uninsured patients, however, could be stuck with the entire hospital charges and not receive any discounts. While the Trump administration did set up a fund to cover coronavirus testing and treatment costs for the uninsured, The Times has reported that some Americans without health insurance have received large bills for their hospital stays.

The biggest billing risk for a patient receiving treatment similar to Mr. Trump’s would probably come from helicopter rides to the hospital.

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