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Unvaccinated COVID-19 patients costing hospitals in Las Vegas, nationwide

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Posted at 8:43 PM, Aug 24, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-25 02:33:25-04

HENDERSON (KTNV) — A new report from the Peterson Center on Healthcare and Kaiser Family Foundation paints a sour financial picture for hospitals treating so many COVID-19 patients.

Most of the hospitalizations nationwide involve the unvaccinated, and the recent surge has cost hospitals more than two billion dollars in the last two months.

“As providers, we need reimbursement to be able to provide care teams and equipment to combat this,” said Brian Kleven, the Nevada market CFO for Dignity Health.

That study from the Kaiser Family Foundation says that nationally, unvaccinated COVID-19 patients cost hospitals $1.5 billion dollars in the month of July.

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“Between the vaccinated and unvaccinated, we do see those that are vaccinated in breakthrough cases, them responding to treatment faster and having shorter stays, which lowers the cost,” said Kleven.

At Dignity Health hospitals, more than 80% of its COVID-19 patients are unvaccinated and treating COVID-19 can cost around $20,000 a patient, with costs potentially soaring above that for the unvaccinated.

“That’s due to whether it’s pharmaceutical drugs to treat the virus such as Remdesivir, also we have additional staffing to deal with it,” he said. “There’s also additional personal protective equipment that’s needed to treat the population.”

How hospitals plan to recover those losses is still being figured out.

“You would think that COVID would just crush the system,” said Phil Randazzo, the owner of Nevada Benefits. “It’d almost be like an insurance company having to deal with these [Hurricane] Katrinas all over the world and having to pay out all these claims. That’s just not the case.”

Randazzo says that for as high of a cost to hospitals as COVID has been, it is nothing compared to what insurers have been covering for years already. Rate increases for health insurance next year are expected to increase around 10 percent in most instances.

“What’s a really big number is when you look at the CDC and what heart disease and stroke costs the health care system. And that’s $214 billion a year. Then you look at diabetes and that’s over $200 billion a year. So chronic disease is really what’s costing this healthcare system and causing the insurance companies to have to raise rates.”

And Dignity Health says if more people were vaccinated, it would prevent most of these long hospital visits and free up beds.

“Seek getting the vaccine that is still effective, even against the Delta variant,” said Kleven. “It can help save your life or someone you love.”