The story about Michael Flor and his $1.1 million hospital bill for a Coronavirus treatment became viral. It is an excellent example of how medical insurance can save one’s financial situation after doctors have saved one’s life.
Michael Flor is the longest hospitalized COVID-19 patient who survived. For 62 days, he was hospitalized at the Swedish Medical Center in Washington, USA. By now, he successfully recovered from the virus and was dismissed from the hospital. A few days after being dismissed from the hospital, Michael received the bill for his stay at the hospital: $1’122’501.04. A shock, but how is it even possible to reach such an amount? Find here the top three items on the invoice:
- Room charge for the intensive care unit and insolation chamber: $408’912
- Treatments during two days when his organs were failing: nearly $100’000
- Use of a medical ventilator for $2’835 per day, in total: $82’215
When money decides about life and death
It is well-known that hospitalizations with overnight stays are extremely expensive, especially in the USA. Michael was very much aware of that. Still while being hospitalized and fighting for this life, he said to this wife, “You gotta get me out of here, we can’t afford this.”, well knowing that this might mean that he will not survive the virus. Unfortunately, the situation that Michael Floor found himself is not unique, nor new. Very often whether someone can afford treatment or not decides between living and dying. Naturally, those who can afford to pay for it have much better chances of surviving compared to those who can’t.
“You gotta get me out of here, we can’t afford this”
Huge R&D investments in healthcare make it possible that today, health conditions can be treated or healed that used to be a death sentence only a few decades ago. A wonderful example are modern AIDS and cancer treatments. But the list is much longer: Vaccines, antibiotics, surgical advances and advanced heart disease care are some further examples where large investments in healthcare research and technology have brought innovations that allow us to live longer and healthier than our parents and grandparents. Healthcare costs worldwide are increasing at an annual rate of 7%. Thereof, the investments in medical technology are estimated to make up for 40-50% of the annual cost increases. The cost to develop a new prescription medicine that receives marketing approval is estimated at an average of $2.6 billion. As a consequence, state-of-the-art medicine and treatments offering best and highest recovery chances are extremely expensive and can only be afforded by those who have enough money. Or those who have good health insurance.
Health insurance as a substitute for money
Michael Flor was lucky, he has health insurance including Medicare and therefore will be fully covered for the $1.1 million hospital bill. If he would have not had health insurance, this invoice would most probably have ruined his finances for a lifetime. To redeem such debt, most people need to pay off continuously during their whole life. Unfortunately experience shows that medical invoices with such extreme amounts are nothing unusual.
Having good health insurance is a substitute for having a lot of spare money, allowing benefit from state-of-the-art medical care paid by the insurance company. However, here it is important to ensure that the annual health insurance limit is sufficient enough. Insurance companies offer a wide range of options which range from a cover limit of $50’000 up to options that are unlimited in their reimbursement maximum. It is recommendable to ensure that one’s medical insurance has a limit of a least $1’500’00. Once the cover limit is reached, all further expenses for the insurance policy period, usually one year, have to be paid out of one’s own pocket. The insurance premium to upgrade to insurance plans with a higher limit usually comes with a marginal higher insurance premium compared to the costs that can one is facing when requiring good medical treatment.