Costs are already piling up in the fight against Ebola, and they are only expected to grow.
The U.S. has already spent more than $311 million on the response to Ebola, and the Obama administration has hundreds of millions of additional dollars it can draw on.
The crisis, however, is expanding and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and National Institutes of Health (NIH) have said more Ebola cases could emerge in the U.S. That’s spurred speculation that a new request from the administration to Congress for more funds could come soon.
Here is a breakdown of some of the numbers related to controlling Ebola.
That’s how much the U.S. government has spent so far on the Ebola fight, as of Oct. 11, according to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB).
The funding encompasses both the domestic and international response efforts. This amount pays for personal protective equipment, community health workers, laboratory surveillance of the disease and field hospitals, among other things.
In addition to the $311.3 million, which came from existing appropriations, Congress approved $88 million in additional funds in a short-term spending bill in September. OMB spokeswoman Emily Cain said she’s not sure whether that amount has been touched yet because it’s too difficult to track the sources of the funds that have already been spent.
Several congressional committees also shifted $750 million toward the Ebola response from leftover Pentagon funds from the Afghanistan War. Only relevant congressional panels need to approve reprogramming requests like this one, and not the entire Congress.
Cain said the $750 million has not been drawn on yet because it takes time for the funding to “go out the door.”
A number of Democrats, meanwhile, have demanded appropriators hold an immediate hearing to explore any additional funding CDC and NIH might need to fight Ebola. The White House hinted this week it could submit another request soon.
“OMB is working with CDC and other agencies to determine whether additional resources will be needed to address the epidemic beyond those provided in the continuing resolution,” Cain said, referring to the short-term spending bill.
“You can’t take money away,” said Richard Hamburg, deputy director at Trust for America’s Health. “There are costs across the board. You have the treatment of the patients, you have the surveillance, you have the kind of resources that agencies like Homeland Security and CDC are placing overseas, as well as vaccines and other tools needed to contain the virus.”
“It’s a new threat,” he said, “and we need new money if we’re going to fight it.”
Healthcare advisory firm Avalere Health estimates it costs roughly $500,000 to treat a single patient with Ebola.
Avalere CEO Dan Mendelson said the average cost of an intensive care hospital stay is about $14,000 per day, which could wind up totaling $250,000 after more than two weeks.
The remaining amount includes costs for isolating the patient and protecting healthcare workers and others treating a patient or handling infectious disease cases.
It doesn’t cover transportation costs, something that could cause the overall price tag to skyrocket according to Mendelson.
“It’s quite possible these bills will get much higher depending on how these patients are actually cared for,” Mendelson said. “Medical transport is very expensive when you’re dealing with little airplanes and dealing with getting patients from point A to point B and everyone is wearing protective gear. That’s very expensive.”
Dallas nurse Nina Pham, who contracted Ebola and has been transferred to the National Institutes of Health outside Washington, won’t have to foot her hospital bill.
“When I said there is no other hospital like [this, I meant] we've never billed a patient for anything,” said John Gallin, the director of the NIH Clinical Center. “We will travel them, we will house them or their family and we will never send a bill. This patient [Pham] will never be charged for anything.”
Baltimore-based Profectus BioSciences Inc. has received a total of nearly $40 million over the last several years to create an Ebola vaccine, according to Dr. John Eldridge, the company’s chief science officer of vaccines. This includes a grant approved by the Department of Health and Human Services last week to provide $8.6 million in additional funding for the project and one contract award to be announced next week.
The company began developing the drug in 2010, Eldridge said. The company aims to release the vaccine in a clinical trial next June or July. The drug, Eldridge said, would be used as a traveler’s vaccine and not for routine use.
That’s the average cost for a protective hazmat suit that many hospital workers will need, said Tony Baumgartner, president of Indiana-based distributor DQE Inc. Last week, the company decided to limit the apparel only to emergency responders and hospitals because of the Ebola outbreak.
“In this case, the supply chains for the garments are starting to become strained,” Baumgartner said. “There had been no supply issue concerns prior to about two weeks ago.”
Originally, the United Nations said it would take $1 billion for an international response to eliminate Ebola. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, however, recently revised that estimate and called for at least a 20-fold surge in aid.
A report by the World Bank Group predicts the financial impact in Africa alone could reach more than $32.5 billion by the end of 2015 if the disease spreads to countries bordering those that have been the worst affected.