The average American spends about $11,000 per year on personal health care, according to the most recent estimates from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.
But when considering record unemployment and COVID-19, any significant cash outlay could lead to a disastrous financial outlook and, as noted in a recent release by the District-based personal finance site, WalletHub, higher medical costs don’t necessarily translate to better results.
According to a study by the Kaiser Family Foundation, the U.S. lags behind several other wealthy nations on measures that include health coverage, life expectancy and disease burden, which measures longevity and quality of life.
However, the U.S. has improved in giving more health care access for people in worse health and health care cost growth has slowed somewhat.
District residents have a reason for optimism. An August survey by WalletHub that compared the 50 states and D.C. found that the nation’s capital ranked at the top in access to adequate health care services and the city enjoyed the most reasonable costs.
While Maryland ranked 32nd in access, it had the third-best ranking for costs. Virginia finished 49th and 18th in those respective categories.
The District also has the most physicians, most hospital beds and most dentists per capita. Further, the survey noted that D.C. has the second-highest number of insured adults and the third-highest number of insured children.
Avalere, a health care think tank in Northwest D.C., noted that costs to the health care system for COVID-19 treatment and related procedures have increased across all health insurance markets, demonstrating the opportunity for potential pharmacological treatments and vaccinations to reduce the number and duration of hospitalizations.
Avalere’s analysis of hospital stay claims in Medicare fee-for-service (FFS) found that total costs to the U.S. health care system from inpatient hospitalizations due to COVID-19 will range from $9.6 billion to $16.9 billion in 2020.
The U.S. has recorded more than 6.1 million cases of the coronavirus and more than 186,000 have died. The District reports about 13,850 cases with more than 600 deaths.
Overall, African Americans are dying at a rate more than twice that of other groups, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The rising health care costs have also greatly affected African Americans whose median annual income is about $30,000 less than white Americans.
“For Americans who struggle with health care costs, drug prices are often identified as the biggest problem. Almost 30 percent of American adults, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, did not fill a prescription last year as directed because of cost. That was before the global COVID-19 pandemic,” Gabriel Levitt, president of PharmacyChecker.com, wrote in an email to The Washington Informer.
“While the uninsured problems are worse, tens of millions of uninsured Americans report problems paying for prescription drugs. Now, there are over five million newly uninsured and many more millions at risk of losing their insurance,” Levitt stated.
Dr. Giuseppe Aragona, a general practitioner and family doctor at prescriptiondoctor.com, said COVID-19 has turned the health care industry upside down.
“From a medical perspective, health care is currently up in arms with all the new changes that are needing to be made,” Aragona said. “For anyone who needs to be seen by someone, I would recommend looking into a telehealth service, as these can usually be faster than more traditional services.
“Unemployment will make it harder for people to have access to these needs, so do everything you can to get help in these times,” Aragona said. “Never put going to the doctor off if it is important, as your life is worth more than the insurance. The pandemic will only be around for so long, so there is no need to fear.”