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How much will COVID-19 cost the U.S. in medical expenses? Billions

Big Pharma lobbying spendingA new report estimates the financial burden on the health care system if most of the U.S. population became infected with COVID-19. The total? $654 billion.

The study published in the journal Health Affairs points to additional direct medical expenses if the need for hospital beds and ventilators exceeds what is currently available.

That is a worst-case scenario.

If 20 percent of the U.S. population becomes infected, the average cost would be $163.4 billion in direct medical expenses. If 50 percent are infected, the corresponding cost would be $408.8 billion.

$654 billion is the price tag if 80 percent of the population experience the illness.

And we hope that doesn’t happen.

Some have proposed allowing more people to become infected to reach so-called “herd immunity” thresholds.

“Our study shows that such strategies could come at a tremendous cost,” says Sara Bartsch, project director at the computational modeling initiative Public Health Informatics, Computational, Operations Research (PHICOR) and the study’s lead author. Bartsch told Science Daily that this model shows why pursuing herd immunity is not a good strategy.

Professor Bruce Y. Lee, executive director of PHICOR and the study’s senior author, believes the simulation is also an example of what may occur if social distancing measures are relaxed too early. He argues that any economic reasons for re-opening the country need to factor the possible health care costs.

“This is more evidence that the COVID-19 coronavirus is very different from the flu,” Bartsch said in the article. “The burden on the health care system and the resources needed are very different.”

Are you worried about health care costs associated with COVID-19? Share your concerns with Voices for Affordable Health.