nurse standing by patient in hospital bed (Photo; Shutterstock)

Lest you were thinking that the trillions bandied about by Congress this week in its attempt to pass a coronavirus relief bill was just a bridge too far, you might want to rethink that.

A new report, COVID-19: The Projected Economic Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on the US Healthcare System, from nonprofit FAIR Health says that the total charges for all hospitalized Covid-19 patients could total as much as $1.4 trillion—and its estimate is based on projections from public health expert estimates that from 66–198 million Americans may become infected, and that from 4.9–19.8 million of them may have to be hospitalized.

Admittedly, that’s the high end of the estimate range, with FAIR’s brief saying that its estimate for all charges for hospitalized Covid-19 patients ranges from “a low of $362 billion in charges and $139 billion in estimated in-network amounts to a high of $1.449 trillion in charges and $558 billion in estimated in-network amounts, depending on the incidence rate and severity of the infection in the US population.”

But no matter how you look at it, that’s a lot of money, and a lot of care.

According to the report, “[t]he total average charge per COVID-19 patient requiring an inpatient stay is estimated at $73,300 and the total average estimated in-network amount per commercially insured patient at $38,221.”

Estimates were based on codes used by providers, with codes for diagnosis-related groups associated with pneumonia and varying by severity resulting in total average charges per patient of $74,310 to $42,486, depending on the code.

The total average estimated in-network amounts per commercially insured patient, according to the report, range from $38,755 to $21,936, again varying by code and severity.

Telehealth charges were also estimated, and using the code most commonly associated with all respiratory infections—accounting for 50 percent of all such services—the average charge is $43 and the average estimated allowed amount is $34 for commercially insured patients, “making it the lowest-cost service of CPT codes that are used only for telehealth.”