A 70 year old man named Michael Flor was admitted to a hospital on March 4 for coronavirus treatment. For 62 harrowing days, he stayed at death's door, even going so far as to call his family and say goodbye. Fortunately he recovered and was eventually able to return home.
That's when he got an itemized 181-page bill for $1,122,501.04.
Because of his age, Mr. Flor's bill will likely be covered by Medicare but there are many other people who have been left in similar positions after getting treated for COVID-19. Mount Sinai, a hospital in New York that received $63.7 million in federal funding, charged an administrative assistant $75,000. She was insured through Cigna, but they only covered $10,000. After she told the New York Times, a representative from Mount Sinai responded that her bill in that amount was a mistake, due to Mendez recently changing insurers, and that, “to be clear, neither this patient nor any Mount Sinai patient should receive a bill or be expected to directly pay for their COVID-19 care.”
These issues arise from an overtaxed and incredibly disorganized American health care system and miscommunication between health care providers and insurers that leaves the bulk of the burden on the patients. As Bridget Read at The Cut put it:
In cases like these, it seems apparent that there’s a disturbing breakdown in communication happening somewhere between the funding being meted out by the government and what people who are admitted to hospitals are actually experiencing — even when they have insurance. Neither Flor nor Mendez have had to pay their exorbitant bill in full, but both had to sort through mountains of complicated paperwork while recovering from the coronavirus, and both will likely have to pay some out-of-pocket costs. The authors of one study estimate that even those with private insurance who become seriously ill with the coronavirus can expect to pay over $1,300, and will be forced to contend with a host of challenges on top of that due to the fact that the United States has a “fragmented health-insurance system and decentralized regulation process.” There is the distinction between in-network and out-of-network care, for example, which cannot always be taken into account when a patient is rushed to a hospital. Even if you make sure to be admitted somewhere in network, you can be treated unknowingly by an out-of-network doctor there. There are also deductibles and co-pays that remain; at the onset of the pandemic, several of the country’s largest insurers, including Cigna, announced they were waiving those cost-sharing fees for coronavirus patients, but many of these forgiveness measures have or will soon expire, despite infection rates rising in many states.