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Up to 12.5 Million Americans Have COVID-19 Medical Debt

Stock Help Still Wanted signs protesting health care and child care costs at the capital.

As Newsweek reports, up to 12.5 million Americans may be contending with medical debt related to COVID-19.

Of the individuals surveyed by Lending Tree, 60%  had medical debt of some kind. 10% said it was related to COVID-19.

The average amount owed is $5,000 to $9,999

Between March 2020 and March 2021, Credit Karma reported a 6.5% increase in medical debt ($2.8 billion).

One 45-year-old COVID-19 survivor reported $20,000 in medical bills. Adding that to $16,000 in student loan debt, $4,000 in credit card debt, and $6,000 owed to his landlord, the patient reported feeling buried and hopeless.

As finance editor Brian Martucci explains:

“Many individuals and families will face or are already facing life-changing financial trauma.”

New Needs for Long-Haulers

COVID-19 survivors may face unexpected out-of-pocket costs long after they leave the hospital.

If they experience ongoing health concerns or new disabilities post-diagnosis, they may face out-of-pocket costs such as:

  • Medications
  • Co-pays and deductibles related to regular medical appointments
  • Unexpected hospitalizations
  • Ongoing physical therapy
  • A transplant need, such as a COVID-related lung transplant
  • Caregiver costs and lost work
  • Mobility, including
  • Home modifications for accessibility

Insurance Companies Withdraw Support

Early in the COVID-19 crisis, insurance companies pledged to cover not only testing but also treatment costs by waiving co-pays and deductibles for patients with insurance diagnosed with COVID-19.

A few months ago, most insurance companies opted to rescind these policies, withdrawing support for patients facing these costs.

Legislation May Come Too Late

Pandemic-related safety nets are no longer protecting patients from overwhelming health cost burdens. As services such as student loan payment deferral and eviction protections taper off, patients feel that their options for managing medical debt are growing more limited day by day.

While new legislation such as the No Surprises Act could make a difference for patients diagnosed after 2021, it will do little to assist the Americans currently contending with surprise medical bills they can’t pay.

Fundraising for COVID-19 Costs

If you are among the millions of Americans struggling with out-of-pocket medical costs related to a COVID-19 diagnosis, you are not alone – and help is available.

Our nonprofit can start fundraising campaigns for COVID-19 survivors that are tax deductible, medically verified, and won’t compromise a patient’s state-based benefits. We back each campaign with personalized fundraising guidance and materials so patients can make the most of their communities of support.

Submit a campaign request today on behalf of yourself or someone you care about:

Written by Emily Progin