‘Preventable’ costs for unvaccinated COVID-19 patients climbs by billions in August: KFF analysis

The estimated “preventable” treatment costs for unvaccinated COVID-19 patients climbed by $3.7 billion in August, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) analysis updated Tuesday. 

The KFF analysis projected that last month’s hospitalization costs for unvaccinated COVID-19 patients reached almost more than double the estimates for June and July combined. In total, the analysis found $5.7 billion in preventable treatment costs for unvaccinated people, with $0.6 billion in June and $1.4 billion in July. 

Last month’s soaring cost estimate came as COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths rose in the U.S. amid the spread of the highly transmissible delta variant and the relatively stalled vaccination rates. 

The analysis of preventable hospitalizations starts in June because COVID-19 vaccinations became widely available to all adults across the country in mid-April. Based on this, American adults could “have generally been able to be fully vaccinated” since late May with a two-dose regimen, according to KFF. 

KFF estimated that there were 287,000 total preventable COVID-19 hospitalizations between June and August, with 187,000 of those occurring in August. The analysis predicted that 98.6 percent of COVID-19 hospitalizations were unvaccinated. 

The foundation used Department of Health and Human Services hospitalization data to determine the number of unvaccinated COVID-19 hospitalizations and “the share that likely could have been prevented if the patients were vaccinated.” 

KFF approximated that 84 percent of hospitalizations primarily for COVID-19 were preventable with vaccinations, with a “roughly” $20,000 cost per hospitalization, based on other data estimates. 

The analysis notes that a small portion of the cost of COVID-19 hospitalizations are generally paid by patients themselves, while insurers, including public programs and private insurance, cover most of the expenses. 

But KFF noted its “ballpark figure is likely an understatement of the cost burden from preventable treatment of COVID-19 among unvaccinated adults.”

The vaccination rate lagged after mid-April with a slight increase in uptake in July and August. Still, about a quarter of adults and slightly less than half the whole population remain unvaccinated, leaving them more at risk for severe illness. 

Children younger than 12 are also currently ineligible to get the vaccine.

Vaccination mandates are gaining traction after the Food and Drug Administration issued full approval for the Pfizer-BioNTech shot. President Biden last week announced requirements for all employers with at least 100 workers to mandate vaccination or weekly testing.

Tags Coronavirus COVID-19 hospitalization COVID-19 vaccine Hospital costs hospitalizations Joe Biden Kaiser Family Foundation KFF Pandemic
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