Health insurance companies have been shielding many customers from out-of-pocket “cost-sharing” expenses like deductibles, coinsurance and copayments for Covid-related medical care. But that safety cushion is disappearing, increasing your direct financial risk from the disease.

Now that vaccines have proven safe and effective at mitigating Covid, insurers are shifting costs back onto customers, including large insurers here in Kansas like Blue Cross Blue Shield of Kansas and Blue KC.

Testing and vaccines will continue to have no out-of-pocket costs under federal law, but other services will trigger customer cost-sharing.

For those who remain unvaccinated, that means a heightened risk of large medical bills, on top of their heightened risk of contracting Covid and suffering its more severe health effects.

The group most directly impacted is the nearly 60% of Kansans who, per the Kansas Health Institute (KHI), get their health insurance through an employer. Should these folks incur costs for Covid-related care, cost-sharing under their respective plans kicks in.

The Kaiser Family Foundation reports that in Kansas the average annual family deductible is about $3,600 and the average individual deductible is about $1,900. Annual out-of-pocket maximums for covered services for families can currently exceed $17,000 under federal law.

Going forward, then, an insured person who needs Covid treatment could face thousands of dollars in out-of-pocket costs that they didn’t risk before in the pandemic.

Roughly 250,000 Kansans lack health insurance, according to the KHI. These Kansans are disproportionately low income workers. They are also more likely to live in rural communities that have lower vaccination rates and that Covid has hit harder on a per capita basis. Not having benefited from cost-sharing waivers because they lacked insurance, not much changes for these folks and their risk for large medical debt.

If four-figure medical bills don’t intimidate you financially, congratulations on your comfort.

But for many Kansans, that kind of expense risks financial ruin and entrapment as a defendant in the legal system. Economic surveys commonly estimate that the median American has under $4,000 in cash savings, while the Federal Reserve reported in 2019 that about 40% of Americans would struggle to cover a $400 emergency expense.

Many readers probably know people — often the uninsured or the under-insured — who have asked for charity on GoFundMe to cover their medical bills. That is a sad reality of the modern American health care market, especially for the working class.

These crowdfunding attempts typically fall far short, though. The Journal of the American Medical Association published a study in early 2021 reporting that the roughly 250,000 medical expense fundraisers on GoFundMe in the previous decade raised just 36% of their total goal.

If neighborly goodwill can’t cover medical expenses for cancer patients when economic times are good, how can we expect it to cover the ballooning costs of Covid care in tougher economic times and when this disease has seemingly driven so many Americans to loathe each other and wish each other harm?

Most Kansans probably aren’t enthusiastic to blow thousands of dollars on Covid care. Nor would they proudly tout that bill in some grand display of conservative virtue signaling. There is no shame in getting vaccinated just to lower your financial risks. But for those who choose to remain unvaccinated, hopefully they know the heightened financial peril they are embracing.

Patrick R. Miller is an Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Kansas.

(12) comments

Fremonster

The greatest way to spread Covid 19, is not getting vaccinated, not staying apart, and not wearing a mask in public. There are actually some people out there who say otherwise, however if they genuinely believe it is unknown.

MWS

The greatest risk of spreading Covid 19 is getting the vaccine and imposing quarantine and mask mandates. Reports from Israel and Denmark out today reveal the true story. Israel leads the world in vaccine response with over 80% of their population vaccinated & they lead the world in promoting boosters for their seniors. They now have more infections, hospitalizations & deaths than before they had vaccines. Denmark saw their total infections drop by 60% after eliminating all Covid 19 restrictions. Fauci has officially run out of lies.

MWS

This article is a bit depressing but it is even more depressing if you add the rest of the facts. 1. 74% of the new Covid cases in MA, for example, are fully vaccinated patients. The original lie was that there were no side effects and that if you got the vax you could return to your normal life and did not need to continue the mask hoax. They neglected to tell you that the vax does not work.

2. Big Pharma got CVS and Walgreens to not fill prescriptions for medications that were wiping out the virus. If these were allowed to be distributed Big Pharma could not create more billionaires (9 new ones created so far). 3. The mask hoax is another revenue generator for Big Pharma and China. The Gov. of CA bought $300M of masks from China and found out later they did not work well. What a surprise. 4. The Biden Admin.are mandating the vax. It's a total hoax. Hollywood actors, Congress, Illegal immigrants, Obama parties and politicians don't wear the idiotic masks. That is only for us little folks. The little guy always pays.

bubarubu

Well, that's nonsense. From 9/11-9/18, there were 4568 cases among vaccinated people in MA out of 11274 cases total, or 40.5%. Since 67.3% of the state has been fully vaccinated, that means 32.7% of the population is responsible for 59.5% of the cases.

As for your big pharma conspiracy stuff, I don't suppose you'll ever be convinced otherwise, but for the data-driven portion of your claim, you're flat wrong.

MWS

Here is the exact quote from the CDC: "About three-fourths of people infected in a Massachusetts Covid-19 outbreak were fully vaccinated, according to new data published Friday by the CDC." The new data, published in the U.S. agency’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, also found that fully vaccinated people who get infected carry as much of the virus in their nose as unvaccinated people.

Aim_High

So the CDC says "About three-fourths of people infected in a Massachusetts Covid-19 outbreak were fully vaccinated" but then you come here and say "74% of the new Covid cases in MA, for example, are fully vaccinated patients."

Very misleading and very sad.

Justice81

Well, DONALD TRUMP PUSHED HARD for the Vaccine. Thus, the FAULT is TOTALLY that of DONALD TRUMP!

Rationa1

Good point

Aim_High

1. A CDC study including 469 individuals who tested positive for covid was done following several large public events in Barnstable County (provincetown), MA during the first half of the month of July. While it is true 74% of those 469 cases were vaccinated people, your claim that "74% of the new Covid cases in MA, for example, are fully vaccinated patients" is outright false.

2. There is no study that says Ivermectin is effective at treating or preventing COVID-19. Filling prescriptions for unauthorized use is illegal.

3. Lol.

4. Lol.

MWS

Here is the results of a massive study in Israel reported in the American Journal of Therapeutics. "Meta-analysis of 15 trials, assessing 2438 participants, found that ivermectin reduced the risk of death by an average of 62% (95% CI 27%–81%) compared with no ivermectin treatment [average RR (aRR) 0.38, 95% CI 0.19 to 0.73; I2 = 49%]; risk of death 2.3% versus 7.8% among hospitalized patients in this analysis, respectively." You hit low again, as usual.

Aim_High

The Israel studies you're talking about have a lot of issues with them... for instance one was removing people from the results after the study was complete and another was done by a group pushing Ivermectin. There are plenty of studies that say Ivermectin doesn't work... the fact you had to look to foreign countries to find the answer you wanted to hear should be a big hint...

The USA, Germany, and UK all agree Ivermectin "is not a viable option to treat COVID-19 patients." And I'd also point out you're claiming Ivermectin reduces risk of death by 62% when the covid vaccine reduces risk of death by over 99%...

Rationa1

What's depressing, MWS, is that you willfully cherry-pick junk science to spread disinformation. I would go into detail, but I think Aim has covered it.

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