WASHINGTON (SBG) — After a two-month battle with coronavirus, one Seattle man says he got a statement of charges totaling more than $1.1 million. As the price of the pandemic comes into focus, some experts say that cost may eventually fall to all of us.
Michael Flor was one of the country’s first COVID-19 patients. During his battle, he lost 40 pounds, and couldn’t walk or feed himself. But after 62 days in the hospital, and two weeks in a rehab facility, he defeated the virus, and went home to find a stunning souvenir: a 181-page medical bill for $1.1 million.
“When you see it in writing and you see your name on it, it was very startling,” said Michael Flor, who spent more than two months fighting coronavirus.
The thousands of charges listed on Flor’s statement came with the monumental effort it took to save his life. He told Spotlight on America he had pneumonia, heart and kidney failure, and had to be put on a ventilator twice. At one point, doctors told his family he wasn’t going to make it, with nurses at one point holding up the phone to his ear so his family could say goodbye. “I don’t remember any of the call frankly,” said Flor. “But hearing my wife describe it, it was difficult.”
Flor was lucky. The 70-year-old made a full recovery and says he only had to cover about $3,000 of that huge medical bill, thanks to Medicare, supplemental insurance, and Congressional funding designed to help hospitals defray pandemic costs. But Flor knows others may not be so lucky, and says he doesn’t want to see people go into financial ruin because they get sick.
“They’re fighting for their lives and it’s the last thing they need to worry about is, how much is this going to cost?” Coronavirus survivor Michael Flor said.
The cost of a COVID-19 hospitalization varies from patient to patient, depending on insurance and other factors.
According to one national survey that looked at healthcare claims to estimate cost, the average charge for a COVID-19 hospitalization is about $73,000 for someone without insurance.
With insurance, that drops to about $38,000. But experts believe we’ll all pay part of the tab for what could be the $17 billion cost of hospitalizations during the pandemic this year alone.
“As a society, the entire globe is going to have a bill to pay for COVID-19,” explained Rebecca Owen with the American Academy of Actuaries.
Rebecca Owen is among those examining the total cost of the pandemic. Owen is a member of the American Academy of Actuaries, which works to evaluate trends and costs in health care.
Owen says the impact on our bottom line, from taxes to insurance premiums, is still being determined. She explained that since we don’t really know what the fall and winter are going to bring, it’s hard to know what the true cost will be.
“There is going to be a lot of costs, not just in healthcare,” she said. “States who have expanded Medicaid, that is going to cost more money. Medicaid rolls are paid for by taxpayers. So what happens with premiums is one thing, but what happens with the entire system is that COVID-19 is going to be expensive.”
In terms of a blanket impact on healthcare costs for the average American, Owen told us it will depend on a lot of different factors. And there’s an added challenge with COVID-19, because the long term effects are still being discovered. Owen told us that COVID-19 patients who have chronic diseases find that their conditions often worsen after they recover from the virus. Owen explained, “Not only might people face costs as they’re hospitalized, but people will face costs later on as they have to encounter the health care system more.”
As the dollars for coronavirus care are calculated, lives are rebuilt. Michael Flor is back in the gym, regaining his strength and enjoying time with family. But he’s still keeping an eye on the mailbox, just in case a follow-up bill shows up. “I keep my fingers crossed,” he told us. “I haven’t seen anything that says ‘paid in full’ yet.”