With more than 7.5 million Americans testing positive for COVID-19, at least 58,088 hospitalized nationwide and at least 210,750 dead since the start of the pandemic, that adds up to millions upon millions of dollars in medical expenses, from testing to respirators to ambulance bills.
President Donald Trump is now among the millions of Americans who have tested positive for COVID-19, and the thousands hospitalized when he went by helicopter to Walter Reed Military Medical Center on Friday. His three-day stay, which included COVID-19 testing, supplementary oxygen, an experimental antibody treatment, several medications and two helicopter rides likely totaled more than $100,000, according to an estimate from The New York Times.
The difference, though, is that Trump’s health care is free to the president, funded from taxpayer money.
The first treatment he received, Regeneron’s monoclonal antibody cocktail, is an experimental treatment still undergoing clinical trials. Because it is not yet approved, it wouldn’t carry a fee — but the average American would not have access to the drug.
Trump was also given remdesivir, an antiviral drug initially developed to treat Ebola. His five-day course of treatment costs $3,120 with private insurance, plus any hospital costs for administering the drug. And later in his hospital stay, Trump was administered dexamethasone, an inexpensive steroid coming in at an average of $18.53.
The largest cost stemming from Trump’s treatment was his helicopter rides to and from the hospital. While the average COVID-19 patient would not need to be airlifted to the hospital, as Trump does for security reasons, medical rides in a helicopter are typically out of network and cost $30,000 to $40,000, according to a study from Johns Hopkins University.
For the average citizen hospitalized with COVID-19, the diagnostic test alone typically costs $100 (though in some cases people have been charged in the thousands for a single swab). Each night spent in the hospital can be upwards of $1,000, and add that to the cost of medications, the services of hospital staff and in severe cases, the need for a respirator, or surgery, and a recovered COVID-19 patient could come away with a bill for around $60,000. In some cases, they’ve received bills for more than $400,000.
While the exact cost varies widely by hospital, state and type of insurance, even those with insurance are charged $31,575 on average, according to FAIR Health.
The Trump administration and Congress have helped to reduce some costs, but not all. Though many Americans may be required to get tested for COVID-19 before they can return to work, the Trump administration said in June that employers and insurers are not required to pay for “testing conducted to screen for general workplace health and safety,” instead leaving that bill to the employee.
And early in the pandemic, the Corona virus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, known as the CARES Act, provided emergency funding to hospitals if they agreed not to charge COVID-19 patients for fees higher than their network reimbursement rate. But some patients have found that their hospital did not stick to that agreement, and had to petition to reduce their bill.