• Ryan Himes

Hospitals Under Stress, COVID Attacking the Uninsured

Updated: Oct 16, 2020

Despite hundreds upon hundreds of models predicting the expected costs paid out by health insurers, insurance companies have only paid a fraction of the initial estimates. It seems like most models overlooked the same factor, people with health insurance usually have a job, house, middle-income, and at no significant risk of contracting the virus. The average person staying home, wearing a mask at the grocery store, keeping a safe distance from others, and working from home, are generally thought to be low risk. This group also represents the majority of people with employer-provided health insurance. And the majority of Americans that are contracting COVID-19 are not in this group.

The groups most at risk for the virus are the homeless, low income, disabled, etc. and these individuals mostly don't have health insurance. This makes covering the costs of treatment very difficult. COVID is a costly treatment, especially if a patient requires an invasive ventilator and overnight stays in the ICU. Just a few nights of this could run between $10k-$20k.

If COVID patients are mostly low income with no health insurance, the medical bills they receive are likely to be astronomical and unpaid. If the person couldn't afford health insurance, what makes a hospital believe they can pay for a $30,000 life-saving treatment?

This leaves us with a challenging circumstance, who pays for COVID treatment? If a person is insured, then its safe to leave for an insurance company. Yet if an uninsured patient receives a $50,000 medical bill that they can't pay, where is the money going to come from?

There appear to be two options: the government could pick up the tab and pay the overdue hospital bills, or the uninsured individuals could declare bankruptcy and renegotiate their debt, potentially crippling them for life financially.

Neither of these options look very appealing, and a Medicare-for-all 'type' of system looks evermore desirable. Healthcare is certainly not free, even under Medicare-for-all. Yet if Medicare-for-all ensures that no more Americans go bankrupt paying medical bills then I am all for it.