COVID-19 hospital charges vary widely by age, Fair Health study finds

Dive Brief:

  • The median charge for hospitalized COVID-19 patients aged 23-30 was about $35,000, while those aged 51-60 had median charges of about $46,000, according to a Fair Health report released Tuesday.
  • The most common other illness found in those patients is chronic kidney disease or kidney failure. Nationally, those patients accounted for 13% of all hospitalized COVID-19 patients during the study period from January to May. The second most common comorbidity in all but one region is Type 2 diabetes, according to the study that looked at private healthcare claims. The exception, the South, had hypertension in that rank.
  • The report also found the most common venue for an initial COVID-19 diagnosis nationally was a traditional doctor’s office. About 33% of COVID-19 patients sought help from an office, while 23% went to an inpatient facility, such as an emergency room. In the Northeast, about 7% of COVID-19 diagnoses in that region came via telehealth appointments, versus 6.2% from ER visits.

Dive Insight:

Since the onset of the pandemic, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has warned older Americans and those with underlying conditions are at a greater risk for contracting the novel coronavirus and requiring hospitalization.

Fair Health’s findings show which other conditions are most likely to land them in the hospital, and how geography and age can affect their cost of treatment.

After kidney disease, Type 2 diabetes and hypertension, atrial fibrillation and flutter and heart failure were the next most common comorbidities. Sleep disorders, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, asthma and anxiety disorders were other common illnesses found in COVID-19 patients.

Researchers used the nation’s largest repository of private healthcare claims to look at variations in age, gender, geography, venue of diagnosis and of treatment, analyzing them nationally and also by U.S. Census region.

The West, which includes Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington and Wyoming, had the widest range of costs for COVID-19 hospitalization.

Median charge amounts ranged from $21,407 for the 19-22 age group to $93,459 for the over 70 age group in that region. Median estimated in-network amounts ranged from $15,289 for the 19-22 age group to $60,205 for the over 70 age group.

COVID-19 was most commonly associated with the age group 51-60, which accounted for 29.9% of the distribution of claim lines with this diagnosis. Children accounted for the smallest share, 1.5%.

In the South, Midwest and West, the age groups 19-30 and 31-40 accounted for larger shares of the distribution of claim lines than in the Northeast and the nation as a whole, in line with recent reports of increasing cases among younger Americans.