Aug 20, 2021 - Health

COVID-19 hospitalizations are getting more expensive for patients

Dr. Michael Nguyen tends to a patient in a hallway at the Houston Methodist The Woodlands Hospital on August 18, 2021 in Houston, Texas
Dr. Michael Nguyen tends to a patient in a hallway at the Houston Methodist The Woodlands Hospital on August 18, 2021 in Houston, Texas. Photo: Brandon Bell/Getty Images

Coronavirus patients who end up hospitalized — the vast majority of whom are unvaccinated — are increasingly likely to be on the hook for their medical bills, according to a new KFF analysis

Where it stands: Early in the pandemic, most insurers waived out-of-pocket costs for coronavirus hospitalizations.

  • But with vaccines readily available, many patients are once again on the hook for deductibles and co-pays, which could make remaining unvaccinated a lot more expensive. 

By the numbers: KFF surveyed the two largest insurers in each state and the District of Columbia, and found that 72% of them had stopped waiving cost-sharing requirements for coronavirus treatment as of this month. 

  • In the first half of the year, about a third of employers offering health benefits said their largest available plan waived cost-sharing obligations for COVID treatment.

Between the lines: The typical deductible in an employer health plan is $1,644, per KFF, and hospitalization for coronavirus treatment could amount to around $1,300 in out-of-pocket costs.

What we're watching: Vaccinated people rarely need to be hospitalized, even if they contract the virus, at least according to data that's been published so far. 

  • Even if that changes, part of the reason insurers initially waived out-of-pocket treatment costs was because they were paying out less than they expected to in medical claims. 
  • Unless people once again stop seeking care like they did in spring 2020, it seems unlikely that insurers will reverse course.
Go deeper