Medical Debt and COVID-19

Ever since the onset of COVID-19, hospitals have been fully packed with patients experiencing more severe symptoms. Depending on the symptoms and the recommended course of treatment, hospitalized patients tend to stay in the hospital between 4 and 21 days on average.
With a longer hospital stay come the higher hospital bills. A financial service company Credit Karma has reported that their customers have accumulated an additional $2.2 billion in overdue medical debt in the period from January 2020 to March 2021, adding up to a whopping $47 billion total. In addition, 2.5 million users have medical bills that are in debt collection since the onset of COVID-19.
This is particularly concerning due to the current economic state in the U.S. where in the past year millions have lost their jobs and are not able to pay their medical bills. Many that were hospitalized due to COVID-19 had to skip work and take longer leaves, which in some cases affected their income. The outstanding medical debt due to COVID-19 treatment has had a severe impact on underprivileged and underserved communities that took a huge hit, adding to their struggles to make the ends meet even before the pandemic struck.
For these reasons, unfortunately, for many patients affected by COVID-19, the focus is not on getting healthy, but on figuring out what to do with the outstanding medical bills that piled up during their sickness.
While hospitalization cannot always be avoided, it is not uncommon that patients skip much-needed medical visits because they are concerned about the high cost of the treatment. While we patiently wait for reform in the existing health care system that would make it accessible and affordable for all, we still must find ways to get the treatment we need.
For non-urgent symptoms, many find the silver lining in telemedicine. Telemedicine comes in all shapes and forms. Whether you have insurance coverage or not, telemedicine is a cost-effective way to get the care you need. Most of the time, a patient will know the cost of the telemedicine visit upfront, avoiding the risk of receiving high medical bills for the treatment at a later time.

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