More than $2 billion spent on COVID-19 hospitalization costs for unvaccinated this summer

185,000 adults with confirmed cases of COVID-19 were hospitalized in June and July. Of those, 182,000, or 98.3%, had not been vaccinated for the disease.

The wide availability and high degree of efficacy of COVID-19 vaccines means that the vast majority of COVID-related hospitalizations in the U.S. now are preventable. And those hospitalizations have cost the nation’s health system more than $2 billion this summer, according to a new policy brief from the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Using data from the CDC, CMS the Department of Health and Human Services, the authors found 185,000 adults with confirmed cases of COVID-19 were hospitalized in June and July. Of those, 182,000, or 98.3%, had not been vaccinated for the disease. From that they subtracted those who may have been hospitalized for reasons other than COVID-19—a number derived from CDC data on vaccinated patients—leaving an estimated 134,000 who were hospitalized primarily due to COVID-19.

The authors then used CDC data on vaccines’ effectiveness in preventing hospitalizations to estimate that 84% of hospitalizations due primarily to COVID-19 are preventable, leaving 113,000 preventable hospitalizations due to COVID-19.

Finally, the researchers estimated that each COVID-19 hospitalization cost around $20,000, a figure derived from CMS and FAIR Health statistics along with Kaiser’s own pre-pandemic data for commercial insurance claims related to pneumonia with complications. Multiplying the cost by the number of preventable hospitalizations, they arrived at a total of $2.3 billion.

That figure, they add, probably understates the true cost burden to-date of preventable COVID cases, since it does not include infections and hospitalizations that have occurred in August, or any costs of outpatient treatment for the disease.

Since hospitalized patients usually pay only a fraction of the total cost of their care, most of the cost of treating the unvaccinated is borne by the nation as a whole, in the form of taxes for public programs and higher premiums for commercial plans.

This article was originally published on Medical Economics®.