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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

Updated 15 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Vaccines: Mix-and-matching gains momentum — Boosters overtake first doses in U.S. — Pfizer to vaccinate Brazilian cityPanel endorses J&J booster.
  2. Health: Age is still a huge coronavirus risk factor — Unvaccinated 11x more likely to die from COVID — 5x more police officers died from COVID than guns.
  3. Politics: Over 30 states limited public health powers — Pope Francis calls on companies to release vaccine patents — Melbourne, "world's most locked-down city," to lift stay-at-home orders.
  4. Education: Education secretary reveals limits to Biden’s mask push on states — LA extends deadline for school employee vaccinations — Parent sues Wisconsin school district after child tests positive.
  5. Variant tracker: Where different strains are spreading.
Updated 2 hours ago - World

Reports: Brazil leader to be accused of crimes against humanity over COVID

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro. Photo: Andressa Anholete/Bloomberg via Getty Images

A Brazilian Senate panel will recommend President Jair Bolsonaro be charged with "crimes against humanity," alleging his COVID-19 pandemic response led to hundreds of thousands of deaths, per the New York Times and the Washington Post.

The latest: The lawmakers initially said Bolsonaro should be charged with mass homicide and genocide, but lawmakers updated the report to replace these with the new charge, its lead author, Sen. Renan Calheiros, told the NYT.

California governor declares drought emergency for entire state

California Gov. Gavin Newsom speakinng to reporters in Los Angeles in September. Photo: Allen J. Schaben/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) extended a drought emergency declaration to cover the entire state on Tuesday.

Why it matters: "California is experiencing its worst drought since the late 1800s, as measured by both lack of precipitation and high temperatures," per a statement from the governor's office. This past August was the driest and hottest one on record, "and the water year that ended last month was the second driest on record," the statement added.