GALVESTON

Contracting COVID-19 in summer 2021 could carry more financial costs for people than it did earlier in the pandemic.

With the number of hospitalizations from COVID-19 rising across Texas, including in Galveston County, experts said there are fewer financial protections now than there were in 2020. It’s something people may want to consider as they weigh their personal decision on whether to get vaccinated, they said.

A person treated for COVID-19 can require tens of thousands of dollars in health care.

A single five- to seven-day stay on a regular floor at the University of Texas Medical Branch can cost $25,000 to $30,000, said Dr. Gulshan Sharma, the chief medical officer at the University of Texas Medical Branch. Things get more expensive depending on how sick a person is or if he or she has underlying health conditions that require more extensive treatment.

“A lot of the cost depends on whether you are on a regular med-surge unit or if in you are in an intensive care unit,” Sharma said. “If you have multiple co-morbidities, if you need supplemental oxygen, if you need high-flow oxygen, if you need respiratory therapy, physical therapy and your length of stay goes to 12 days, it can be $60,000 to $80,000.”

A stay in an intensive care unit while on a ventilator can cost $1,500 a day, Sharma said.

People with health insurance are likely covered for their COVID care, but some of the rules about that coverage have changed over the course of the 16 months the virus has ravaged the United States.

After the CARES Act was passed by Congress in March 2020, insurance companies were required to waive cost-sharing measures, like deductibles, for people being treated for the virus, said Krutika Amin, the associate director of the Peterson-KFF Health System Tracker, an online information hub that monitors and assesses the performance of the U.S. health system

But in 2021, many of those waivers have started to expire, meaning more people will have to pay for the cost of their care.

“It’s something people should be concerned about,” Amin said. “Though there were these waivers in place, they were temporary. People with hospitalizations now can be charged with deductibles that, depending on the plan they’re in, can be over $8,000.”

A KFF study released July 19 found that health insurers that offer plans through the ACA marketplace didn’t propose large premium rate increases this year. That’s in part because health care spending actually fell during the pandemic and insurers expect their costs to rebound to, but not exceed, prepandemic trends, according to the study.

Even under normal circumstances, people are liable to be at risk for a high amount of debt, experts said.

The question about costs of health care can fairly be weighed against the benefits of getting a COVID-19 vaccination, experts said. Vaccine providers are prohibited from billing people for their vaccinations, though medical providers can seek reimbursement from insurance companies.

“Health care costs money in the United States; that’s what this boils down to,” said Allison Sesso, the executive director of RIP Medical Debt, a nonprofit organization dedicated to removing peoples’ medical debt by using donations to buy bundles of debt from collection companies. “The implications for not getting a vaccine are more than your health. They are financial. They can land in your family’s lap, as well. The idea that government is covering all the costs has been proven to be not accurate.”

Cases of COVID-19 are rising this summer because of the delta variant, which is spreading through the unvaccinated population. More than 97 percent of people hospitalized nationally are unvaccinated, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The medical branch is seeing similar trends in the people it’s treating, Sharma said.

As of Monday, there were 78 people being treated for COVID-19 in Galveston County hospitals, according to the Southeast Texas Regional Advisory Council. Friday was the first day there were at least 70 local COVID hospitalizations since March 8.

About 54 percent of Galveston County residents eligible to receive the vaccine are fully vaccinated, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services.

The medical branch expected hospitalizations to continue rising over the next two weeks, Sharma said. On Monday, the medical branch announced it was limiting the number of visitors into its hospitals and clinics, and taking other precautions, because of the rise of cases of COVID-19.

John Wayne Ferguson: 409-683-5226; john.ferguson@galvnews.com or on Twitter

@johnwferguson.

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(14) comments

Bailey Jones

Vaccine - still free.

Carlos Ponce

It comes out of your tax dollars. Nothing is really "free".

Carlos Ponce

Bailey, if the vaccines are plentiful and "free" why don't they jab every alien entering at points of entry? Now they cannot jab the illegals who sneak in but there's a reason why they don't jab those at port of entry. They put them on buses to spread the virus throughout the United States. With the increase in numbers they can control the populace. Don't blame the CBP or ICE. Blame those in charge.

Curtiss Brown

Carlos, that is a totally nutty reply. We don't go around jabbing people with needles. Vaccines are voluntary in this country, so far. I really don't think you want to express the precedent of the government giving mandatory shots. Is that a good idea?

Carlos Ponce

Those coming across the border are super spreaders. They're not even given a chance to decide for themselves whether to take the jab or not. "Nutty" is the idea of instilling a guilt trip on those in this country who will not take the jab but letting the super spreaders come in without question, testing or option to take the jab.

Bailey Jones

If only there was a vaccine for your idiocy.

Let's analyze this. Your assertion is that the Biden administration is busing hordes of festering infected "aliens" to American towns and cities specifically to spread the pandemic so that more government control can be forced on more Americans.

Possible responses are (pick one):

1) Every American should get vaccinated immediately

2) Blame the Democrats

You've chosen #2.

For any Cult45ers out there who still don't believe that you're an idiot, let me help you with your cause:

THE BIDEN VIRUS IS COMING! GET VACCINATED NOW!! DON'T LET THE SOCIALISTS WIN!!!

Carlos Ponce

No, Bailey, I have not chosen #2. Give those entering that we know of the OPTION to take the jab or not.

Looks like the"BIDEN VIRUS" has affected your mind.

Carlos Ponce

I just heard on the news the vaccine is now being offered and turned down by many.

Jim Forsythe

Why is anyone worried, because “Within a couple of days [the number of positive cases is] going to be down to close to zero.”

If you are a person that does not believe in the COVID-19 vaccine, you need not worry. Even as we speak ICU case are increasing at alarming rates! But do not worry about that, because you will be protected because you say so.

The only people that are at risk because of nothing they did to themselves, are the people that can not be vaccinated and the children that can not be vaccinated at this time.

Why think of others?

Why be vaccinated to protect others?

Carlos Ponce

Jim Forsythe taking things OUT OF CONTEXT.

He was speaking about a group of 15 only.

Feb. 26, 2020: “And again, when you have 15 people, and the 15 within a couple of days is going to be down to close to zero, that’s a pretty good job we’ve done.”

But Jim has to leave out the part where he is referring to a group of 15. You are being disingenuous. But we've gone over this before, time and time again......

Carlos Ponce Jul 30, 2020 8:50am

[Trump] was speaking specifically about the 15 in Washington State at the time, only THOSE 15. All survived. That "original fifteen" as he called them is now zero. They were treated and out of the hospital. Hopefully all who have the Chinese Wuhan COVID-19 Coronavirus will survive. I'm not tired of winning but I grow weary of those who take the President's words out of context.

Carlos Ponce

What did JIM FORSYTHE POST?

Jim Forsythe Jul 8, 2020 3:48pm

President Trump told the country there were only 15 cases of coronavirus in the US, and “within a couple days [it is] going to be down to close to zero.”

My reply:

Carlos Ponce Jul 8, 2020 5:00pm

"President Trump told the country there were only 15 cases of coronavirus in the US" WRONG!!!!!

Jim, that's not true. He was talking about 15 infected in Washington State, ONLY THOSE 15!!!!!!!!!!

"Of the 15 people — the 'original 15,' as I call them — 8 of them have returned to their homes, to stay in their homes until fully recovered. One is in the hospital and five have fully recovered. And one is, we think, in pretty good shape and it’s in between hospital and going home."

"And again, when you have 15 people, and the 15 within a couple of days is going to be down to close to zero, that’s a pretty good job we’ve done."

https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefings-statements/remarks-president-trump-vice-president-pence-members-coronavirus-task-force-press-conference/

NOWHERE does Trump say there "were only 15 cases of coronavirus in the US". You're WRONG!

PS: Don't try the link. It has been scrubbed from whitehouse.gov.

Jim Forsythe

“The 15 (cases in the US) within a couple of days is going to be down to close to zero.” But do not worry, “Just stay calm. It will go away.”

I guess it will stop in short order, "You know, you see what's going on. And so I just wanted that to stop as it pertains to the United States. And that's what we've done. We've stopped it."

Will it ever go away? Of course because all we have to do is "Stay calm, it will go away. You know it -- you know it is going away, and it will go away, and we're going to have a great victory."

Is COVID-19 a bad thing or a good thing? “When we have a lot of cases, I don't look at that as a bad thing, I look at that as, in a certain respect, as being a good thing,...Because it means our testing is much better. I view it as a badge of honor, really, it's a badge of honor.”

Will it ever be over? "I really do believe that we are rounding the corner. The vaccines are right there”

What we are about to see, more groups, city's requiring people be vaccinated, to be able to work for them.

Dan Freeman

No one who had to go to an ICU has said they were glad they had not been vaccinated.

No family member of a person who died with or because of COVID has said they are glad the deceased was not vaccinated.

The unvaccinated may soon overwhelm our ICUs again.

We can thank the Republican Party and Right Wing Media for trying to destroy our feeble health care system.

Ted Gillis

And you can thank their physician, Dr. Zuckerberg.

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