corona virus-Covid19

COVID-19 Hospital Bills Not Just a Problem for the Uninsured Interview with:

Kao-Ping Chua, M.D., Ph.D. Assistant Professor, Pediatrics, Medical School Susan B. Meister Child Health Evaluation and Research Center University of Michigan

Dr. Kao-Ping Chua

Kao-Ping Chua, MD, PhD
Assistant Professor,
Department of Pediatrics
Assistant Professor,
Health Management and Policy
School of Public Health
University of Michigan  What is the background for this study?

Response: In 2020, most insurers waived the cost of COVID-19 hospitalization for patients. In early 2021, many major insurers started to abandon those waivers. By August 2021, the vast majority of insurers had started billing patients for COVID-19 hospitalizations again. What are the main findings?

Response: Using a national private insurance and Medicare Advantage claims database, we found that the proportion of COVID-19 hospitalizations in which patients were billed by hospitals spiked dramatically in February and March of 2021 – the months during which insurers started to abandon cost-sharing waivers. Among privately insured patients who were billed by hospitals, the average out-of-pocket cost was approximately $4,000. Among patients covered by Medicare Advantage plans, the average out-of-pocket cost was approximately $1,600. In both groups, patients with longer inpatient stays had larger bills for COVID-19 hospitalizations. What should readers take away from your report?

Response: Hundreds of thousands of Americans were hospitalized for COVID-19 during the omicron surge. Now that insurers are no longer waiving bills for COVID-19 hospitalizations, our study suggests that many of these patients will pay thousands of dollars for their hospital stay. This amount will be on top of the bills patients may receive for post-discharge care, including nursing home care, rehabilitation, and visits for new COVID-19-related co-morbidities. Importantly, patients will be billed for COVID-19 hospitalization regardless of their vaccination status, meaning this is not just a problem for the unvaccinated. What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this work?

Response: One of my main concerns is that the threat of high hospitalization bills may deter patients from seeking care for COVID-19 even though they are very sick. This possibility should be explored in future research.

No disclosures


Chua K, Conti RM, Becker NV. Trends in and Factors Associated With Out-of-Pocket Spending for COVID-19 Hospitalizations From March 2020 to March 2021. JAMA Netw Open. 2022;5(2):e2148237. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2021.48237



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Last Updated on February 15, 2022 by Marie Benz MD FAAD