How much does coronavirus treatment cost? Getting tested is now free, but treatment is expensive

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Getting tested for the novel coronavirus is now free, but being treated for the respiratory illness could cost up to $20,000, a recent analysis by Peterson-Kaiser Family Foundation Health System Tracker found.

People with health insurance through their employer could pay more than $1,300 in out-of-pocket costs if they’re hospitalized with a severe case of COVID-19, Peterson-KFF found. The estimated costs were based on 2018 hospitalization costs for pneumonia patients with employer-sponsored health insurance.

An estimated one in five (18%) patients hospitalized with a severe case of pneumonia ended up with a surprise medical bill from an out-of-network provider, Peterson-KFF found.

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The Families First relief act recently passed by Congress made testing for the coronavirus free. Most of America’s major health insurers agreed to waive co-pays and other out-of-pocket costs for coronavirus tests, but there’s no such discount planned for treating the disease.

“Medical costs are already a common concern in the U.S., particularly for people without insurance, those with high deductibles, and those in worse health,” the authors of the Peterson-KFF analysis wrote. “In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is of even greater concern, as many people could be incurring high out-of-pocket costs, at a time when there is also risk of a recession.”

A survey by Kaiser Family Foundation conducted between March 11 and 15 found that 62% of respondents were worried that they or someone in their family would get sick from the coronavirus.

More than one-third (36%) were worried about being able to afford testing or treatment, and two-thirds of people who don’t have health insurance said they were worried about the cost of treatment and testing.