Direct Medical Costs of COVID-19 Infection Are Considerable

Costs could vary from $163.4 to $654.0 billion for 20 to 80 percent of U.S. population infected, respectively

stethoscope with a dollar sign

MONDAY, April 27, 2020 (HealthDay News) -- A single symptomatic COVID-19 infection results in direct medical costs of $3,045 in the United States, according to a study published online April 23 in Health Affairs.

Sarah M. Bartsch, M.P.H., from City University of New York in New York City, and colleagues developed a Monte Carlo simulation model representing the U.S. population to understand the burden COVID-19 could impose on the U.S. health care system. To understand the potential economic benefits of reducing the burden of disease, the authors estimated resource use and direct medical costs per infection and at the national level with various infection rates.

The researchers estimated the median cost of a single symptomatic COVID-19 infection at $3,045 in direct medical costs incurred only during the course of the infection. Infection of 80 percent of the U.S. population could result in a median of 44.6 million hospitalizations, 10.7 million intensive care unit admissions, 6.5 million ventilators used, and 249.5 million hospital bed days; during the course of the pandemic, this would cost $654.0 billion in direct costs. There would be a median of 11.2 million hospitalizations, 62.3 million hospital bed days, and 1.6 million ventilators used, with a total cost of $163.4 billion if 20 percent of the population were to become infected.

"The significant difference in costs by attack rate across the U.S. population show the value of strategies that keep the attack [rate] as low as possible and, conversely, the potential cost of any 'herd immunity' strategies," the authors write.

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