Physician viewpoint: It's too soon for insurers to lift COVID-19 waivers

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Most insurers voluntarily waived co-pays, deductibles and other cost-sharing for hospitalized COVID-19 patients in 2020, but many began charging again in early 2021. Without waivers, Americans hospitalized for COVID-19 may face hospital bills totaling thousands of dollars, according to a study published May 30 in the medical preprint journal medRXiv

Using the IQVIA PharMetrics Plus for Academics Database, researchers from Ann Arbor-based Michigan Medicine analyzed 4,075 COVID-19-related hospitalizations of patients with private insurance or a Medicare Advantage plan between March and September 2020. 

They found that without waivers, a hospitalized COVID-19 patient with job-related or self-purchased insurance will face a hospital bill averaging $3,8000. Without waivers, the average bill for a hospitalized COVID-19 patient with a Medicare Advantage plan is $1,500.

"It is premature for insurers to stop protecting patients from the costs of COVID-19 hospitalizations,” Kao-Ping Chua, MD, PhD, the study's lead author, said in a June 2 news release. "Even though hospitalization levels are decreasing, more than 20,000 people are hospitalized for COVID-19 in the U.S. right now. The pandemic is not over."

 

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