Patient cost for COVID treatments about to rise for some

Aug 31, 2021, 6:25 PM | Updated: 9:25 pm

SALT LAKE CITY — As of Aug. 31, 2021, 485 people are currently hospitalized, battling COVID-19.

All those hospital stays are not cheap.

Starting Sept. 1, some patients may find themselves having to pay more than expected, as insurance companies stop paying 100% of the cost of COVID treatments.

‘I’ve gotten bill after bill after bill’

Cass Ho was hospitalized with COVID-19 in May 2020, when the pandemic was still new and hospitals were not yet over capacity with ICU patients.

“It was a really rough go,” Ho said. “I was in critical condition, and I ended up being on a ventilator and probably very close to death.”

Ho said she was in the ICU for two weeks, nine days of which she was intubated and in a coma.

“Fortunately, I was able to pull out of it, some way, somehow,” she said.

As she began healing at home, the bills began arriving.

“I’ve gotten bill after bill after bill,” she exclaimed. “They came in pages and pages.”

Overall, Ho estimates her ICU stay cost about $125,000.

“I know my doctor was $550 a day, and then there was all the medications, all the care from the nurses that came in,” she said. “They charge for everything. Every pill, every shot… all the oxygen. I was on a ventilator. The ventilators are extremely expensive.”

Good news for Ho, she did not have to pay a dime out of pocket. What her Medicare plan did not cover, her supplemental insurance did.

Ho said it was a relief to have that burden off her shoulders while she recovers from the effects of COVID-19.

“It plays a huge role in the recovery of yourself,” she said. “Because if you have a financial obligation, and you’re insured, even if it’s 80%, you are still stuck with that bill. And if you are in a bad way, and you are on a ventilator and you are in the ICU, you’re looking at a six-figure bill.”

A medical team moves a COVID-19 patient in a Utah hospital. (KSL TV) Patients receive treatment in a Utah hospital for COVID-19. Cass Ho shares her experience being hospitalized with COVID-19.

The costs of COVID hospitalizations

Other Americans have also found big bills do not follow them home.

In Utah, the KSL Investigators found two major insurance companies have covered COVID treatment costs 100% for its members: SelectHealth and Regence Blue Cross Blue Shield.

That’s changing. Starting Sept. 1, SelectHealth will apply the normal “plan benefits” to its members receiving COVID treatment.

Its spokesperson sent this statement to KSL-TV:

“SelectHealth carefully examined claims data and considered what other carriers were doing related to rolling back COVID coverage before making this determination. We also considered the availability of vaccinations and the ability for this to lessen the impacts of COVID. We continue to cover testing and vaccinations for COVID 100% and COVID treatment according to plan benefits, and we will continue to encourage individuals to get vaccinated.”

Regence Blue Cross Blue Shield of Utah will change their policy from “no out-of-pocket costs for members” to the normal plan benefits starting Jan. 1, 2022.

The KSL Investigators looked at other major insurance providers in Utah and found that United Healthcare, PEHP and University of Utah Health Plans currently cover COVID treatments at the normal plan coinsurance cost-sharing, per their member contracts. Medicare also processes COVID treatment as normal billing.

That means patients can expect bills for things like co-pays, deductibles and out-of-pocket maximums.

With serious COVID cases, likely expect to pay your maximum out-of-pocket costs if you are hospitalized.

According to independent, nonprofit health care cost estimator FAIR Health, the average price for COVID ICU patients in Utah with complexities was $223,462, with allowable charges for health insurance at $112,808.

Nationally, COVID hospitalizations without complexities cost patients an average of $59,536. It’s higher in Utah, with an average bill of $82,155 charged.

The COVID-19 vaccines remain free.

The Utah Department of Health reports the vast majority of those currently hospitalized with COVID did not receive any of the available COVID-19 vaccines.

The Kaiser Family Foundation found, so far, unvaccinated COVID patients have cost hospitals $2 billion nationwide.

Have you had COVID-19 and received medical treatment for it? We’d love to see the bills to get a better idea of what COVID is costing the Utah community. Send them to investigates@ksl.com.

Have you experienced something you think just isn’t right? The KSL Investigators want to help. Submit your tip at investigates@ksl.com or 385-707-6153 so we can get working for you.

KSL 5 TV Live

KSL Investigates

Leah Moses...

Annie Knox

Utah lawmakers pass ‘Om’s Law,’ focused on child safety in custody decisions

Utah lawmakers gave final passage to bill requiring judges to consider evidence of domestic violence raised in child custody cases.

2 days ago

Matt Gephardt being shown the double payments that Terry Hutchings has been getting....

Matt Gephardt and Sloan Schrage, KSL TV

Get Gephardt helps homeowner being charged two bills for one security system

Billing for a previous home initially stopped when she sold it, but when she got a new security system from the same provider for her new place a year later it started billing for both.

3 days ago

fences and buildings with an inmate walking on a snowy sidewalk...

Daniella Rivera

New Prison, New Problems: Inside the effort to staff Utah’s new $1 billion prison facility

Utah's new prison cost taxpayers more than a $ 1 billion, yet a scathing audit shows the new facility has been unsafe and still isn't being used as intended. After being granted unprecedented access, the KSL Investigators go inside the new prison for a look at what's being done to fix its new problems.

4 days ago

Neilson-Berg explaining the hassles and trouble she has been going through to get into contact with...

Matt Gephardt

Get Gephardt helps Google Fiber customer get her internet fixed after customer service calls go nowhere

When a Salt Lake City woman's internet connection went down, and she couldn't get a straight answer as to when it would be back up, she decided to Get Gephardt.

4 days ago

dome and side of the Utah Capitol...

Daniella Rivera and Annie Knox, KSL TV

Truth Test: Fact-checking claims from lawmakers who voted to make their calendars secret

The KSL Investigators put lawmakers’ statements about a measure that would conceal their calendars through the KSL Truth Test.

4 days ago

Sean Reyes...

Keira Fairmont

Fight for Transparency: KSL’s 15-month long battle to get Sean Reyes’ calendar

Utah’s Attorney General Sean Reyes still refuses to release his professional calendar despite State Records Committee and Judge’s orders. Now Utah Lawmakers have passed a bill to seal all public officials’ calendars.

4 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Modern chandelier hanging from a white slanted ceiling with windows in the backgruond...

Lighting Design

Light Up Your Home With These Top Lighting Trends for 2024

Check out the latest lighting design trends for 2024 and tips on how you can incorporate them into your home.

Technician woman fixing hardware of desktop computer. Close up....

PC Laptops

Tips for Hassle-Free Computer Repairs

Experiencing a glitch in your computer can be frustrating, but with these tips you can have your computer repaired without the stress.

Close up of finger on keyboard button with number 11 logo...

PC Laptops

7 Reasons Why You Should Upgrade Your Laptop to Windows 11

Explore the benefits of upgrading to Windows 11 for a smoother, more secure, and feature-packed computing experience.

Stylish room interior with beautiful Christmas tree and decorative fireplace...

Lighting Design

Create a Festive Home with Our Easy-to-Follow Holiday Prep Guide

Get ready for festive celebrations! Discover expert tips to prepare your home for the holidays, creating a warm and welcoming atmosphere for unforgettable moments.

Battery low message on mobile device screen. Internet and technology concept...

PC Laptops

9 Tips to Get More Power Out of Your Laptop Battery

Get more power out of your laptop battery and help it last longer by implementing some of these tips from our guide.

Users display warnings about the use of artificial intelligence (AI), access to malicious software ...

Les Olson

How to Stay Safe from Cybersecurity Threats

Read our tips for reading for how to respond to rising cybersecurity threats in 2023 and beyond to keep yourself and your company safe.

Patient cost for COVID treatments about to rise for some