“In March, I came down with a life-threatening case of COVID-19,” David Lat writes over at Slate. “I spent 16 nights in the hospital, including a week in the intensive care unit. I underwent an emergency intubation, followed by six days on a ventilator. I received services from multiple specialists -— experts in critical care, pulmonology, anesthesiology, infectious disease -— and a bevy of experimental medications, including the now-infamous hydroxychloroquine. I can’t thank my doctors and nurses enough for the care I received, which was excellent and extensive. It was also expensive. After I came off the ventilator, the sedation wore off, and I could think clearly again, one of my first feelings -— after immense gratitude and relief -— was anxiety. I wondered: What will my COVID-19 treatment cost me? I’m fortunate enough to have health insurance. I can still remember logging into the website for my insurer, UnitedHealthcare, from my hospital bed, to look up the terms of my policy. My hospital, NYU Langone, is in-network for UHC, so the applicable terms were a $1,250 deductible and a $6,000 out-of-pocket maximum. I’m also fortunate to live in New York, which has a law protecting patients from being surprised with out-of-network charges after being admitted to an in-network hospital. So my worst-case scenario was paying $7,250 -— which I fully expected to do, since the “sticker price” or nominal cost of my care would surely be in the six figures (or maybe even seven figures, as some predicted when I asked for guesses on Twitter). I can’t say I was enthusiastic about the prospect of shelling out thousands of dollars, but I can’t say I was too upset either. The doctors, nurses, and other members of my care team saved my life -— and how can I put a price on that? More than two months after my hospital discharge, I have received what I believe to be the bulk of my bills (knock wood). The total sticker price, adding up the totals from my various explanation of benefit forms: about $320,000.” David Lat, “Why I didn’t have to pay my COVID-19 bill,” Slate.
Jeanne Pinder is the founder and CEO of ClearHealthCosts. She worked at The New York Times for almost 25 years as a reporter, editor and human resources executive, then volunteered for a buyout and founded ClearHealthCosts.
She was previously a fellow at the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at the Columbia University School of Journalism. ClearHealthCosts has won grants from the Tow-Knight Center for Entrepreneurial Journalism at the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at the City University of New York; the International Women’s Media Foundation; the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation with KQED public radio in San Francisco and KPCC in Los Angeles; the Lenfest Foundation in Philadelphia for a partnership with The Philadelphia Inquirer; and the New York State Health Foundation for a partnership with WNYC public radio/Gothamist in New York; and other honors.
Her TED talk about fixing health costs has surpassed 2 million views.