By Consumers For Quality Care, on March 3, 2021
The total cost for treating COVID-19 patients is still hard for hospitals to figure out because it is difficult to know what treatment patients might need. Those who aren’t lucky enough to escape with just a runny nose might find themselves facing a large medical bill that is near impossible to pay off. Patricia Mason found herself in just that exact situation after her life saving COVID-19 treatment cost a grand total of $1,339,181.94, according to the Los Angeles Times.
“The deck is absolutely stacked against the consumer and the patient,” said Sabrina Corlette, co-director of the Center on Health Insurance Reforms at Georgetown University.
While many insurance companies have waived all out-of-pocket costs for coronavirus treatments, slashing million-dollar bills for some lucky patients, it is strictly voluntary. Mason’s insurance company did not offer her costs to be waived and she is on the hook for $42,184.20 of the million-dollar medical bill from her hospital stay of March 28 through April 20 of last year.
“I don’t have $42,000 to spare,” Mason said. “We’re at the point where we’re trying to make it through the next 15 years, so hopefully we can one day retire…. I am lucky enough to be alive, so we take that into consideration. But the reality is I don’t have [the money]. It’s not going to happen.”
Mason is insured with Blue Shield of California through her husband’s union, through what is known as a self-funded plan. Unlike most health plans, they are not required to follow the federal government’s out-of-pocket maximums. Their plan “grandfathered in” out-of-pocket spending caps. This means that Mason’s plan does not have an out-of-pocket limit. Although many plans waived treatment costs for COVID-19, many self-funded plans never waived treatment.
The Kaiser Family Foundation estimates that 61% of Americans who get their insurance through their jobs are covered by self-funded plans.