But as the death toll mounted, a patient who was about to be put on a ventilator in one of New York City’s stretched to capacity intensive care units had a final question for his nurse: “Who’s going to pay for it?”
Those were the patient’s final words to his medical team, Derrick Smith,
In the wealthiest country in the world, the Covid-19 pandemic has exposed the core of a
“As this epidemic makes clear, at any moment, any of us could become sick, could become hospitalized, could be on a mechanical ventilator,” said Adam Gaffney, an ICU doctor in Boston. “And that, in the United States, could mean potentially ruinous
Gaffney is president of Physicians for a Nationalized Health Plan, a group of more than 20,000 medical professionals who support universal
“I’ve heard from patients saying they’ve skipped their inhaler because they couldn’t afford the dose,” Gaffney said. “I’ve heard from patients who’ve gone for years without primary care because they were uninsured and wound up in the ICU.”
There were 27.9 million people without health insurance in 2018 and that figure is projected to increase by millions because of record-high unemployment. In the meantime the US has 600,000-plus confirmed
The US government and major health
How much testing and treatment costs individuals depends on if the patient was insured, how they were insured, and whether they survived. For example, a company that pays for its staff’s health insurance could decide not to cover an employee’s treatment, even if the health insurance company it’s using had said it would waive Covid-19 related payments.
Since 2006, 30% of Americans each year on average have delayed any sort of medical treatment for cost, according to the polling firm Gallup.
More Americans are afraid of paying for
“It’s hard to fight an epidemic if people are afraid to go to the doctor, to be seen in the emergency room,” Gaffney said. “It could mean some people not getting tested, it could mean some people delaying getting care and potentially harming their own health.”
Medical clinic closures and job losses in a pandemicThe pandemic crisis is being further exacerbated by the system’s devotion to profits over people. Medical workers are being furloughed and losing jobs because of the pandemic – including those on the
Alteon Health, a private-equity backed company which employs about 1,700 emergency medicine doctors and other physicians, said it would temporarily stop providing benefits including paid time off, according to the health website STAT.
Without high-margin treatments such as physical therapy, cosmetic surgery and orthopedic procedures, medical systems are struggling to pay salaries and cover administrative costs.
The American Academy of Family Physicians projected 60,000 family practices will close or significantly scale back
And in hospital corridors across the country, staff
Joe Manginn, an ER nurse in Madison, Wisconsin, said: “The bottom line has always been very forefront and this now puts into an extra level of being conscious
“If we do get sick and need to be hospitalized, it hits us financially with the insurance and those kinds of payments, but it also hits us financially because we’re not able to work any longer,” Manginn said. “It’s a double whammy for the healthcare workers doing this right now.”
His health insurance, which also covers their three children, costs $5,000 a year plus the money they set aside for out-of-pocket costs in a tax-free account.
“We work for the hospital, it should be that we would have the most access to it [
Congress has allocated $100bn to help hospitals. On Friday, the White House said hospitals that accept the funds will not be allowed to use two common billing practices: to bill uninsured patients or
Like other parts of the planned government response, questions remain about just how effective that money will be in addressing the convoluted
Financial burden on the
This major disruption to the US healthcare
system may leave nurses and doctors jobless, but there are early
indications insurance companies could be insulated from the damage.
frontlines, not the insurers
Not only did health insurance companies enter the crisis with capital, several analysts have anticipated these companies could have lower costs because fewer people are seeking routine medical care.
David Blumenthal, president of the global health
“We will continue to pay our premiums, because we know that we could get
At the same time, the 16 million people who have lost their jobs in the past three weeks will put an increased burden on the healthcare system if they join the ranks of the uninsured or those who use Medicaid, government health insurance for low-income people.
“We’ll have to see where the public ends up settling on in terms of what it demands
The ICU doctor, Gaffney, said he was
“At a time of soaring unemployment and at a time of deepening recession, people are going to be losing coverage and seeing more and more medical bills if they get sick,” Gaffney said. “That doesn’t make any sense.”