The average hospitalization bill for a COVID-19 patient is $12,489 and the total national cost for inpatient hospitalizations will range from $9.6 billion to $16.9 billion in 2020, a new study finds.
The analysis by health care consulting firm Avalere looked at three scenarios of hospitalization to develop its projections. Commercial payers will bear the largest portion of costs for hospitalization, with Medicare picking up the second-highest portion, between $3.5 billion and $6.2 billion, Avalere found.
Avalere’s numbers differ markedly from those estimated by the insurance trade group America’s Health Insurance Plans. That analysis finds the average cost for hospitalization to be $30,000 per patient.
The cost projections make a strong case for keeping COVID-19 patients out of the hospital as much as possible, says Jane Orient, M.D., executive director of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS) and a policy advisor to The Heartland Institute, which co-publishes Health Care News.
One way is to give physicians more freedom to use hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) in treating patients infected with the virus, says Orient.
“States have to stop obstructing it,” said Orient. “If widely used, hospitalizations and deaths might drop dramatically.”
Orient says the use of HCQ in other countries has shown encouraging results in keeping COVID at bay.
“In Vadodara, India, of more than 100,000 close contacts of COVID-19 positive patients who were given HCQ, only 0.2 percent became positive,” said Orient. “That is 99.8 percent effective. Also, no patients complained of complications from the HCQ, while the majority of subjects in safety tests on two vaccines complained of systemic symptoms such as fever, muscle or joint pain, and headache after the second dose.”
Doctors Asking Permission
In the United States, physicians have been petitioning states and the federal government to loosen restrictions on HCQ, which has been used safely for decades for malaria and some autoimmune disorders but is not approved for COVID-19.
On July 30 the Ohio Board of Pharmacy, at the urging of Gov. Mike DeWine and the medical and patient communities, withdrew its rule preventing HCQ from being sold in Ohio as a treatment for COVID-19.
DeWine said treatment decisions are best left between doctor and patient.
“The Board of Pharmacy and the State Medical Board of Ohio should revisit the issue, listen to the best medical science, and open the process up for comment and testimony from experts,” said DeWine in a statement.
Kelsey Hackem, J.D., (firstname.lastname@example.org) writes from the state of Washington.