How much a Covid-19 treatment can cost you

Published July 6, 2020, 3:16 PM

by Paola Navarette

She got tested for Covid-19. Then came the flood of medical bills

By March 16, Carla Villanueva Mañas, an executive and leadership coach, had been having bouts of fever, back pain, and dry cough for a couple of days. She couldn’t remember how she caught the virus because she said she didn’t have direct contact with anyone showing mild symptoms and was following basic protective measures to reduce her risk of getting sick. 

So with Covid-19 cases rising across the country, she called her doctor for direction. She was instructed to take paracetamol every four hours. But on the following day, she was advised to go to Makati Medical City, where staff took swabs for flu and other viruses. “That day, I had difficulty breathing and I felt like something was on my chest or someone was tightening a rope around my upper torso,” she said. 

Her laboratory results showed she had pneumonia so she had to be isolated in a hospital room for further observation. “I was very surprised because my symptoms weren’t that severe, except for the high fever,” she said. “Since I don’t have any illness or any maintenance medicine, I thought I was healthy.” 

While being treated for pneumonia, Mañas said she waited several days for a lab to process her test, and she had a diagnosis: Covid-19. 

A few days later, she got the bills for her treatment: P343,000. “I was surprised,” she said. “It’s expensive to get sick. I was there for 14 days, with no operation. They only gave me medicines, oxygen, and all the ECG tests.” 

Mañas said she was lucky because she had a  medical insurance to cover her expenses. 

“I’m very blessed because Philhealth covered the P10,500 and my medical insurance covered the majority of my bills,” she said. “I also got help from a senator and there were four Covid-19 swab tests they did on me that I didn’t pay for.” 

In the US, a new analysis from the Kaiser Family Foundation estimates that the average cost of Covid-19 treatment for someone with employer insurance—and without complications—would be about $9,763. Someone whose treatment has complications may see bills double that: $20,292. (The researchers came up with those numbers by examining average costs of hospital admissions for people with pneumonia.)

But local policies regarding out-of-pocket costs for testing and treatment are changing rapidly. Congress has recently approved a measure authorizing President Duterte to realign, reallocate, and reprogram government funds for the country’s health workers who have been putting their lives on the line to help save their fellow Filipinos. Under the measure, public and private health personnel who may contract the virus while in the line of duty will receive P100,000 compensation, while their loved ones will get one million should these medical personnel die from the dreaded virus. Insurance firms are also taking steps to limit how much you might eventually owe, along with extended payment deadlines and added benefits if clients got ill or died of the disease. And Philhealth has announced it will shoulder the full cost of treatment for all patients infected with the new coronavirus until April 14. After April 14, it will continue to provide financial coverage to Covid-19 cases through a recomputed case rate.