The medical bill she received a few days later after returning home was as devastating as the virus itself.
When Danni Askini first began experiencing sudden chest pain, shortness of breath, and migraine in late February, she immediately called up her oncologist who'd been treating her lymphoma. Suspecting the symptoms to be a poor reaction to a new medication, her doctor sent her to a Boston-area emergency room where she was told it was likely pneumonia. Askini was sent back home where she saw her temperature spike and drop dangerously over the next several days. She also developed a cough that gurgled because of liquid in her lungs which undid a throat surgery she'd had in 2018.
According to TIME, Askini visited the ER two more times that week, and on the seventh day of her illness was given a final test, the results of which she'd only receive a few days later. After helping her manage her flu and pneumonia symptoms, doctors sent her back home to recover. Three days later, Askini received the test results and at long last had a diagnosis: COVID-19. She was one of the first cases of the coronavirus pandemic in the United States—long before President Trump signed congressional measures ensuring free diagnostic testing and the medical bill she received a few days later was as devastating as the virus itself.
So this story is about my experience with COVID and my final hospital bill: $34,927.23 - an amount that I will never be able to repay and more than I paid to get both my Bachelors and Masters degree. @realDonaldTrump @ewarren @AyannaPressley please help! https://t.co/pJApXMPzcW— Danni Askini (@danniaskini) March 20, 2020
Askini was hit with a whopping $34,927.43 bill for her COVID-19 testing and treatment and with no insurance like millions of other Americans, she has no idea how she'll pay it off. "I was pretty sticker-shocked. I personally don’t know anybody who has that kind of money," she said. Askini took to Twitter earlier this month to warn others of the outrageous financial blow the virus delivers, writing: If people are wondering "How much does COVID-19 Cost?!" Here is my bill. 3 ER Visits to get stabilized, oxygen, hydrated, and treat pneumonia. The COVID-19 Test was $907.00 !! I got excellent care, I am immunocompromised, but this will take a decade to pay off.
If people are wondering "How much does COVID-19 Cost?!" Here is my bill. 3 ER Visits to get stabilized, oxygen, hydrated, and treat pneumonia. The COVID-19 Test was $907.00 !! I got excellent care, I am immunocompromised, but this will take a decade to pay off. #Covid#Co pic.twitter.com/n4ni9ZxeKx— Danni Askini (@danniaskini) March 12, 2020
Askini and her husband had reportedly been planning to move to Washington, D.C. this month where she was about to start a new job. Now, staggering under a myriad of health concerns that followed COVID-19, she has had to put those plans on hold. Her only hope now is Medicaid, which she hopes will retroactively cover her bills.
No I have applied for Medicaid, after I hear back if I am denied I can ask the hospital for charity care. It is so stressful and I was supposed to move to DC to start a new job, but now I can’t. It has been a huge setback after a year of cancer treatment that’s almost over. :-(— Danni Askini (@danniaskini) March 20, 2020
Shocked netizens were in utter disbelief of the staggering bill and questioned the exuberant amount.
Depending on billing system, it will all start as insurance balance until they do a transfer to patient when someone goes to run the insurance batch and it kicks in there is no insurance.— Sloth (@sloth_dc) March 21, 2020
This is criminal. The chest x-ray is one of the cheapest things on here!— 🩸🦷🗽 KT Raschko (@frankncents) March 12, 2020
Yes but there is no way to negotiate that rate - once they send it to collections; that's it. Try calling the hospital and demanding they allow you to be billed the insurance rate. They laughed at me and said to apply for Medicaid.— Danni Askini (@danniaskini) March 20, 2020
Public health experts believe tens of thousands—maybe millions—of people across the US will need to be hospitalized for COVID-19 in the foreseeable future. Although Congress passed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act on March 18, it only covers testing costs going forward and does not address the cost of treatment. Those who end up going to the ICU after testing positive for COVID-19 expect big bills, regardless of what insurance they have.
People who are #uninsured will likely face unique barriers accessing #COVID19 testing and treatment.— Kaiser Family Foundation (@KFF) March 24, 2020
And those who contract COVID-19 and need medical care will likely receive large medical bills, even if they have low incomes and are unable to pay. https://t.co/uikKSZ1nlO pic.twitter.com/kw4DjPbIGD
An analysis from the Kaiser Family Foundation estimates that the average cost of COVID-19 treatment for someone with employer insurance—and no complications—would be about $9,763. Meanwhile, those who experience complications can expect to have to pay double this amount with a bill of about $20,292. In both cases, patients with employer-based insurance can expect out-of-pocket costs of over $1,300. Although Medicare and Medicaid might cover the services needed for coronavirus treatment, the details on deductibles (for Medicare) and potential co-pays will depend on your plan and which state you're in for Medicaid.
"Everything we know about out-of-pocket costs and how they impact behavior tells us that if people think they will face thousands of dollars in medical bills, they may avoid getting tested, which will exacerbate the public health crisis."https://t.co/N725btUCEW— The Century Foundation (@TCFdotorg) March 24, 2020
Meanwhile, for the uninsured, the situation is much worse. Thankfully, some hospitals offer charity care programs and a few states are now making moves to help residents pay for COVID-19 costs beyond testing. States like Maryland, Massachusetts, Nevada, New York, Rhode Island, and Washington have created "special enrollment periods" to allow more people to sign up for insurance mid-year and a few others are requiring coverage of future vaccines or changing rules about prescription medication refills to help people stock up on essential medicines.
My experience shows - younger people (I’m 38) can have life changing and permanent medical damage from #COVID19 not to mention the mental health effects of a $35,000 medical Bill, loosing work colleagues and frontline healthcare worker friends. This is a PLAGUE it will reshape us— Danni Askini (@danniaskini) March 25, 2020