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48% of Americans worried about paying for COVID-19 care, survey finds

More than 40 percent of survey respondents said the government should cover the costs of screening for COVID-19. File Photo courtesy of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
More than 40 percent of survey respondents said the government should cover the costs of screening for COVID-19. File Photo courtesy of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention | License Photo

March 11 (UPI) -- Nearly half of all Americans say they are worried about meeting healthcare costs incurred because of the expanding new coronavirus outbreak, a new survey has found.

In results released Wednesday by Healthcare.com, a web-based company offering insurance comparison services for consumers, 23 percent of respondents said that were "not very confident" and 25 percent said they were "not at all confident" in their ability to meet costs of care associated with the disease, called COVID-19.

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In addition, more than 40 percent indicated they would potentially need to take out bank loans, borrow money from family or run up credit card debt to cover any medical treatment they needed. Only 31 percent of respondents said they could meet expected costs by using their savings.

"I think some of the fear consumers expressed is because they don't know what's covered and they have high deductibles," Jeff Smedsrud, co-founder of Healthcare.com, told UPI. "There is also a subset of people who are uninsured, and they could find themselves in a very bad place as the outbreak evolves."

HealthCare.com commissioned public opinion and data firm YouGov to survey nearly 2,500 adults on the outbreak and their related concerns. The questionnaires were completed online March 4-5 just as the confirmed cases of COVID-19 started to increase in the United States and elsewhere.

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Fifteen percent of those with private or employer insurance said the virus would cause them financial hardship.

In all, more than 30 percent of Americans surveyed indicated that they might skip treatment for the disease because of cost. Health industry watchdog FAIR Health recently released an analysis that found that out-of-network costs for ER visits related to coronavirus diagnosis and treatment could be as high as $1,151 for some consumers.

Meanwhile, of those without health insurance surveyed, 59 percent said they were "not at all financially prepared" to deal with the cost of care associated with COVID-19. To compare, roughly one in four of those on Medicare or who receive insurance coverage through the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, shared this concern.

In addition to the questions on costs, the Healthcare.com survey found that more than 20 percent of Americans are avoiding public spaces, and roughly 5 percent have canceled overseas travel plans as a result of the outbreak. However, 41 percent admitted they haven't changed their behavior at all, even as more states report new cases.

More than 40 percent of survey respondents said the government should cover the costs of screening for COVID-19, while 35 percent expected the government to pay for vaccinating the public against the virus as well. Roughly the same number of people -- about 30 percent each -- felt that government or private insurance should cover treatment expenses.

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"We've been getting a lot of questions about the outbreak from people coming to the site," Smedsrud said. "People want to know which insurers are covering costs associated with the disease."

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