Mar 2, 2020 - Health

Coronavirus raises health care affordability concerns in the U.S.

A health care worker prepares to transport a patient into an ambulance in Kirkland, Washington.
A health care worker prepares to transport a patient into an ambulance in Kirkland, Washington, on Feb. 29. Photo: David Ryder/Getty Images

The threat of the coronavirus is already exposing the holes in the U.S. health care system, particularly for low-income people and those without health insurance.

Why it matters: If affordability concerns keep people from receiving the care they need, or from staying home in order to prevent the transmission of the coronavirus, we've got an even bigger problem.

Driving the news: The coronavirus could be particularly burdensome among gig economy workers, both because they often don't have health insurance through their work and because the nature of their jobs increases their risk of exposure, the Washington Post reports. They also often can't afford to stay home.

The coronavirus is already colliding with the issue of surprise medical bills.

  • The NYT's Sarah Kliff reported this weekend on one Pennsylvania family that was put under quarantine after returning from Wuhan, China. After testing negative for the virus, they received medical bills totaling nearly $4,000.

The bottom line: The coronavirus is likely to test not only our public health preparedness, but the degree to which affordability concerns are a threat to our response.

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