Researchers estimate COVID-19 has already cost California insurers $2.4 billion

A new study out of the Nicholas C. Petris Center at UC Berkeley estimates the COVID-19 pandemic has already cost California’s public and private insurers $2.4 billion in testing and treatment. This, says researchers, is six times the annual cost of the flu in California.

Researchers based their cost estimates on a 5% prevalence rate of COVID-19 in California, as suggested by recent antibody studies.

 

Image: Richard M. Scheffler, Daniel R. Arnold, Brent D. Fulton, Alexandra Peltz, Taylor L. Wang, and John Swartzberg

 

Under the 5% prevalence assumption, approximately 59% of the costs are related to hospitalizations, 23% are due to COVID testing, and nearly 18% is from outpatient visits. The cost breakdown by payer is 59% commercial, 26% Medicare, 10% Medi-Cal, and 5% uninsured.

“High prices and large enrollment contribute to commercial being a large share of the total costs. The cost per infected person is $1,326 for commercial, $1,774 for Medicare, $289 for Medi-Cal/CHIP, and $629 for uninsured,” researchers say.

If prevalence were to reach 60%, the lower threshold to reach herd immunity, researchers estimate costs could rise to $25.1 billion.

 

Image: Richard M. Scheffler, Daniel R. Arnold, Brent D. Fulton, Alexandra Peltz, Taylor L. Wang, and John Swartzberg

 

In this scenario, hospitalizations jump to 69% of the overall costs. Testing would drop to 10% of the cost and outpatient visits would account for 21% of costs.

The study also breaks down estimated per capita costs by county at both 5% and 60% prevalence scenarios. Currently, estimated costs per 1,000 population are greater than $70,000 in 9 counties: Marin, San Mateo, Calaveras, San Francisco, Plumas, Nevada, Amador, Contra Costa, and Santa Clara. The estimates show wide variation by county.

 

Image: Richard M. Scheffler, Daniel R. Arnold, Brent D. Fulton, Alexandra Peltz, Taylor L. Wang, and John Swartzberg

 

The research team says they plan to continue to update the study as new information on prevalence, prices, and utilization is reported.