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Why COVID-19 Patients Might Receive Huge Medical Bills

According to recent coverage by U.S. News & World Report and KARE11, COVID-19 survivors may be in for surprisingly high out-of-pocket charges for their care—despite promises from insurance companies.

Who Could Be Affected?

One affected group may be older Americans who have a Medicare Advantage plan.

These Americans are more likely to be hospitalized with COVID-19. As a result, they are also more likely to be billed for the cost of emergency care.

Seasonal flu hospitalizations cost seniors $987 out-of-pocket on average, but 3% of seniors hospitalized with the flu pay over $2,500. If insurance companies bill these patients for COVID-19 care or hospital stays, seniors could be on the hook for $1,000 or more.

However, younger patients may also be vulnerable.

In one example from CBS Los Angeles, an insured patient spent 11 days fighting COVID-19 in the hospital and received a $110,000 bill. The bill included a charge of $3,400 per day for an ICU bed and $22 per day for a single melatonin pill to help with sleep.

As with most medical conditions, billed charges will vary drastically: one patient racked up $2.5 million in COVID-19 related costs, but most of the expenses were covered in full by his insurance.

Why Insurer Policies May Change

It’s true that most private insurers have pledged to provide “full coverage” for COVID-19 hospitalizations. However, if they decide to change their policies, patients will begin to receive out-of-pocket bills.

Ultimately, there is no federal law that requires these insurers to waive COVID-19 costs. Insurers can change their policies at any time and for any reason.

Does the CARES Act Cover These Costs?

The CARES Act created a provider relief fund of $150 billion. However, these funds are intended to cover facilities’ costs for the treatment of uninsured patients diagnosed with COVID-19.

Keep in mind that if you receive treatment as an uninsured patient with COVID-like symptoms but you ultimately test negative for COVID-19, you may receive a bill for the full amount of your hospitalization and treatment. The New York Times reported on one uninsured patient who was hospitalized with symptoms but tested negative for COVID-19—the patient received a bill for $22,368.

The Truth About Out-of-Pocket Costs

Our nonprofit is well aware of the immense burden of out-of-pocket medical expenses—we’ve been helping patients to offset these costs through fundraising for almost four decades. We also know that no matter what an insurer promises, no insurance policy covers every single cost that improves your health or your day-to-day life after a catastrophic medical event.

You may struggle to cover the cost of co-pays, medications, deductibles, medical-related travel, caregiving, or co-insurance. You may also find yourself dealing with new medical concerns (and associated costs) caused by your fight against COVID-19.

Regardless of your situation, please know that you are not alone: very few individuals and families have the resources to deal with these costs on their own. That fact is the reason why our nonprofit exists.

How to Get Help for COVID-19 Expenses

All COVID-19 patients should contact their insurers to find out which COVID-19 expenses are waived or covered in full. Because these policies may change over time, patients should check back periodically to see if insurers have altered any of their policies or pledges.

Patients can appeal any charges or bills that they believe are erroneous. Patients should also have the opportunity to set up a payment plan directly with a hospital or care provider to pay down large bills.

If patients still need help with associated costs, they should contact our nonprofit for COVID-19 fundraising—details below.

How to Fundraise for COVID-19 Costs

At Help Hope Live, we help COVID-19 patients to fundraise for their out-of-pocket costs.

Unlike GoFundMe, campaigns with our nonprofit are tax deductible, medically verified, and not counted as personal income or assets (so patients do not run the risk of disrupting their state-based benefits by fundraising).

If we’re a good fit for you, you’ll receive caring, one-on-one phone and email assistance from an experienced fundraising coordinator. You can continue to fundraise for as long as you have a medical and financial need for all the medical and related costs that are linked to your COVID-19 diagnosis.

Submit a campaign request today on behalf of yourself or someone you know who is struggling with COVID-19 expenses.

We also offer a list of ten additional resources for COVID-19 financial help for specific patient populations:

Written by Emily Progin