Americans are concerned they can’t afford coronavirus care
Wednesday, April 08, 2020
During the coronavirus crisis, Americans have plenty of fears about the virus and their health and well-being, a new Kaiser Family Foundation survey says. In it, 39% of those who responded also said they are facing financial strife and that they had either lost a job or some income because of the virus.
For many, the study suggests, financial strains are growing more and more troublesome with each passing day. But the virus is not just a burden from a financial perspective. Forty-five percent said the stress of trying to protect their families from the virus is affecting their overall mental health, with 34% even saying they can’t get needed medical care not related to COVID-19.
Patients’ fears about being able to afford care because of a lack of financial means may not be unfounded.
There are efforts in place to protect citizens financially. New York state now requires insurers to not collect premiums for the next two months from individuals and small businesses because of financial hardships brought on by the virus, and health plans in the state must still pay claims for the individual and small group plans through June 1. Health plans also cannot report late payments to credit rating agencies during this period.
Likewise, key insurers are waiving cost-sharing for COVID-19-related costs and tests. President Donald Trump announced on April 3 that uninsured Americans can seek coronavirus treatment for free as the federal government is agreeing to cover hospitals' expenses. A $100 billion fund will include the provision for healthcare providers that were part of a historic enormous $2 trillion coronavirus stimulus package passed by Congress in March.
“Today I can so proudly announce that hospitals and health care providers treating uninsured coronavirus patients will be reimbursed by the federal government using the economic relief package Congress passed last month,” Trump said at that day’s White House coronavirus task force briefing.
“That should alleviate any concern that uninsured Americans may have about seeking the coronavirus treatment,” he added, saying the order was “very much in favor of our great people.”
With the federal government’s steps, it also is expanding free testing for the coronavirus. The testing for the virus free for many people who need it, including the uninsured.
Per Consumer Reports, in addition to free tests, the “Families First Coronavirus Response Act” requires that coronavirus-related doctor visits be covered by all private insurers; public programs such as Medicare and Medicaid; and for the uninsured, without any cost to the patient.
However, Americans may still feel the pinch in their wallets the cost of being treated for COVID-19, the disease cause by the virus, could still be expensive, especially if you need to go to the emergency room or are admitted to the hospital, Adler says.
This is especially true for the almost half of Americans with a high-deductible health insurance plan (HDHP), which requires you to pay more of your healthcare costs before insurance kicks in. An HDHP plan has a deductible of at least $1,400 for an individual or $2,800 for a family, as defined by the IRS. And surprise medical bills could still be a problem for anyone who seeks treatment.
If a person does test positive for the coronavirus and is being admitted to the hospital, they will be charged for the care. None of the federal legislative actions address the cost of treatment, Consumer Reports note.
These individuals can expect treatment for an infectious disease to be typically covered in accordance with an individual’s benefit plan, however.
That said, most who test positive are allowed to practice self-care at home. Only if a patient shows severe symptoms — severe shortness of breath, weakness, and is unable to stay adequately hydrated — should they be required to seek emergency care.
Back to the Kaiser survey: As unsettling as the responses may be, nearly 75% said they feel the worst of the pandemic is still looming, with about 60% saying they are concerned about putting themselves at risk of COVID-19 in cases where they are not able to stay home to miss work. Those most likely to possess this fear include healthcare workers and their families (69%), lower-income workers (72%), and hourly and gig workers (61%).
As people respond to the virus by protecting themselves through social distancing and sheltering in place — Americans are concerned about more than their health, and their finances are top of mind for most.
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