We’re all doing everything we can, making huge sacrifices, changing fundamental parts of our lives, to protect ourselves and our families from the COVID-19 pandemic. But for some, that won’t be enough. Many, many people will contract the disease, and many of those will need serious medical treatment. And while the cost of testing for coronavirus will largely come out of local, state, or federal government coffers, patients will eventually foot part of the bill for treatment.
Coronavirus, in its most serious forms, is extremely expensive to treat. The highly publicized fight for more ventilators will save lives, but those ventilators cost anywhere from 34,000 to 88,000 dollars per patient (versus a 12,500 dollar average pneumonia related hospital visit without ventilators), according to the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF). The KFF found that “the cost of inpatient admissions for COVID-19 treatment could top $20,000.”
While insurance will cover a large portion of the cost for patients, most will have to pay thousands in out-of-pocket expenses like copays and deductibles. Patients who have employer insurance from large companies will likely have to pay over a thousand dollars, and workers at smaller companies and those who are self-employed will be hurt more.
The unemployed, of course, will be hit the hardest. This is part of what makes the huge layoffs seen in every industry so distressing. Due to extreme social distancing measures, the US is seeing its highest unemployment numbers since the Great Depression (for more information about job loss, read this article by Alden Roy). Unemployed people will need to either apply for medicare or buy insurance through Obamacare markets. NPR’s Patti Neighmond reports that while the “most generous ACA plans cover the majority of medical bills,” more affordable options for the jobless will leave gaps in coverage, and treatment could cost patients over 2,000 dollars. For those who are losing their jobs, and even those who aren’t, that cost could be unbearable. This could mean choosing between hospital bills and rent—and many are already struggling to cover rent as 31 percent of people living in apartments didn’t pay on time for April, according to the National Multifamily Housing Council.
Although the hardships from COVID-19 are affecting everyone, impact isn’t being spread evenly. The pandemic, along with the economic crisis, is impacting disadvantaged communities the most, creating a “crisis within a crisis,” Dr. Uché Blackstock told the Los Angeles Times. Cases have been increasingly concentrated in minority neighborhoods, and black communities face the most dire impacts. African Americans are at a higher risk due to an array of systematic issues, which Eugene Scott, in an article for the Washington Post, categorized as “underlying health conditions,” holding more essential jobs, “insufficient information,” and “housing disparities.” Scott connects all these reasons to systemic issues that black people and communities have always faced, like wealth inequality and lack of access to equal health care.
These issues lead to higher death rates among black patients. “African Americans account for 41 percent of COVID deaths in Michigan, though only 14 percent of residents. In Chicago, black residents represent 72 percent of deaths, but just 30 percent of the population,” according to CBS. Across the country, black patients are dying anywhere from two to seven times more than white ones. The consequences of this inequality will last many years, and will continue to deeply affect the healing process America will need to go through.
Overseas, the consequences of COVID-19 could last for years. Oxfam, a charity that works to fight poverty around the world, warns that this virus could push half a billion people into poverty without financial support. This would “set back the fight against poverty by a decade, and as much as 30 years in some regions such as sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East and North Africa,” according to Oxfam.
While all are making sacrifices to stop the pandemic, some will bear the brunt of the disease, both physically and economically. As the president of Oxfam says, “while the reach of COVID-19 may be universal, the impacts will not be experienced equally.”