OHIO — We learn more about the coronavirus pandemic every day as new details emerge about the virus itself and the cost of treatment. With their health being the main priority, many people don’t focus on the cost initially, but once they’re better, some are finding the cost of treatment to be an additional stress they weren’t prepared for.
For Chris Compton, 19, contracting COVID-19 could mean life-or-death for his family, especially for his sister who has a rare heart condition called Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome.
“So, there are a bunch of health issues in my family. Mostly preexisting. I'm one of the few people in my family who don't have a preexisting condition. So, I was very careful in thought of others. And also just for everyone's well-being,” said Compton.
Even while being extremely careful, Compton got COVID-19, and despite being young, he said he experienced intense physical reactions.
“So, by the fourth day it was just complete, like chest pain, back pain — could not get out of bed. Like, I had a couple of dishes in the sink that I was trying to wash and just getting up and going over to the sink and standing there for like tops three minutes. I was out of breath and I had to go back to bed. It was exhausting,” said Compton.
Compton’s currently living with a friend while he’s relocating to Columbus.
When Compton tested positive for coronavirus, he quarantined and scheduled a telehealth appointment because of his worsening conditions.
“I had a telehealth meeting and she basically was like, because of your chest pain, we need you to go to the hospital in fear that there's a blood clot in your lungs. And at that point... I was speechless,” said Compton.
Compton said he was admitted to a hospital in Columbus, where he stayed for about nine hours.
“They had to run tests like blood tests, a CT scan, the whole nine yards. And so about at 9:00 p.m. was when I was finished with all of my tests and stuff like that. So, it was basically just a waiting game now to make sure that I was okay. And so as they started to review the tests and stuff, they started to see nothing completely life-threatening, like there was no blood clot in my lungs,” said Compton.
And while he received all those tests, no insurance covered it because he didn't have any.
“When I heard that they were giving me basically a full workup, CT scans with contrast blood work, IVs, and some medications, I instantly knew that it was racking up a horrendous bill. I just kept thinking like, it's for a good reason. I'm going to be healthy after this. I was so nervous, and I knew that I don't have the money to pay it and it's going to affect my credit, like just overall debt with student loans as well. But I knew that it was something super important and I had to do it,” said Compton.
Compton’s mom and sister are insured by Medicaid, but he says he was denied and has since re-applied. He did receive a small discount through the nonprofit healthcare system, Ohio Health, but said his bill is large for someone who is financially independent.
“So my complete bill is around $8,000, even with the uninsured discount. It is very, very stressful. Medical bills are almost always on my mind. I almost always think of them,” said Compton.
While some patients with COVID-19 don’t pay a dime for their treatment, others without health insurance, like Compton, are stuck with a bill.
A spokesperson from University Hospitals in Cleveland said costs vary widely depending on your symptoms and treatments, what medical coverage you have, and even how the hospital codes the diagnosis.
Many people mistakenly believed all costs related to COVID-19 would be paid based on the Trump administration’s pledge to protect COVID-19 patients from massive medical bills.
Fair Health Is an independent, national nonprofit that aims to bring transparency to healthcare costs and insurance. It released a study on projected inpatient hospitalization COVID-19 costs based off of typical spending for hospital admissions for pneumonia.
The study projected the charges for someone without insurance or who received out-of-network care was estimated to be over $73,000 for a six-day inpatient stay.
For commercially insured patients, it was estimated that their inpatient services would cost about $38,000. For Medicare and Medicaid patients, the cost was reduced to about $10,000 and $7,000, respectively. So, Compton's $8,000 bill is not out of line with what researchers have seen in similar treatment for pneumonia.
But, patients can advocate for themselves by reaching out to their hospital’s patient care advocate service.
“So hopefully, I will get this completely paid off by the end of next year. After I get a job, because I do have rent to pay, and I have a car, and I have other expenses that I'll need to like spend money for. And so this is, even though this is a high priority, it's still lower on the list because I need a means to support my life,” said Compton.
See the Fair Health study below.