Analysis: Cost of care for unvaccinated Covid patients spikes to $5.7B

Unvaccinated adults who contracted Covid-19 cost the U.S. healthcare system $5.7 billion this summer, according to new estimates from the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Peterson Center on Healthcare.

The organizations updated a report they released in August, which showed that in June and July, hospital care for unvaccinated Covid-19 patients cost the healthcare system around $2 billion. In August, that figure jumped by $3.7 billion.

For the report, Kaiser and the Peterson Center analyzed Department of Health and Human Services data for estimates of hospital admissions with confirmed Covid-19. Report authors then examined data from the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control on vaccinated people who experienced a breakthrough hospitalization to estimate the share of hospital stays that were among unvaccinated adults.

Between June and August, there were 530,000 new hospital admissions of adult patients with confirmed Covid-19, of which an estimated 98.6% were unvaccinated. Figures are rounded up.

To arrive at the number of preventable Covid-19 hospitalizations, researchers multiplied the number of adults hospitalized primarily for Covid by the percent of hospital stays preventable by vaccination: 287,000 across the three months studied. Of these, 187,000 hospitalizations occurred in August.

Finally, the researchers multiplied the number of preventable hospitalizations by the cost of each hospital stay, which was estimated to be $20,000. They found that $5.7 billion was spent to treat unvaccinated adults over the last three months.

But this ballpark figure is likely an understatement of the cost burden, the report authors wrote. This is because the analysis did not take outpatient treatment costs into account, which are likely high. Further, unvaccinated people are also more likely to spread the virus to those who have taken measures to protect themselves, and those costs are not included in the analysis.

About 179 million people, 54% of the total U.S. population, are fully vaccinated against Covid-19, according to data from the CDC. But there is still resistance to getting vaccinated, with 20% of adults polled in a Kaiser Family Foundation survey saying that they would only take the shot if their workplace or school required it or that they would refuse the vaccine completely.

The Biden administration is doubling down on vaccinations, making it a key part of their plan to end the pandemic. Employers with more than 100 employees must ensure their workforce is vaccinated or tested for Covid-19 weekly, among other mandates.

Research has also shown that despite breakthrough infections, the Covid-19 vaccination campaign has saved nearly 280,000 lives and prevented 1.25 million hospitalizations.

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