COVID-19 Hospital Cost: Price of COVID Treatment by State

In the U.S., hospital stays for any reason typically come with bloated bills. But new data show that hospitalization for COVID-19 is on an entirely different level — costing, in many cases, hundreds of thousands of dollars before insurance.

Fair Health, an independent nonprofit that tracks health care costs, recently released an interactive tool that displays state-by-state costs associated with COVID-19 treatment.

“It is notable how widely COVID-19 costs range depending on the severity of the disease,” Robin Gelburd, president at Fair Health, said in an email to Money. The amounts billed by hospitals can vary widely based on where the treatment is taking place as well.

Navigating the potential costs for COVID-19 hospitalization (or any hospital stay) can be incredibly confusing. In its study, Fair Health breaks down the hospitalization charges in different states into “complex” and “noncomplex” COVID-19 cases. It defines complex cases as “the most serious” ones, which require admission to an intensive care unit (ICU) and/or a ventilator. Noncomplex cases include hospital admission but not an ICU visit or a ventilator.

COVID-19 hospital costs

Even for noncomplex COVID-19 hospitalizations, the average billing costs exceed six figures in several states, ranging from $31,339 to $111,213 around the country. Complex cases are much more expensive, with average costs ranging from $131,965 to $472,213.

Location matters almost as much as the severity of the illness. The most expensive states for treatment for complex COVID-19 cases have the following average costs:

  • Nevada: $472,213
  • California: $461,780
  • Alaska: $417,208
  • Texas: $378,052
  • New Jersey: $377,198

For noncomplex cases, the most expensive states are:

  • California: $111,213
  • Alaska: $108,870
  • Wyoming: $102,772
  • Nevada: $102,115
  • New Mexico: $98,336

Notably, Maryland was the “cheapest” state on average for both complex and noncomplex COVID-19 hospitalization, at $131,965 and $31,339 respectively.

Take note that these figures are based on what Fair Health calls the “charged amount.” This accounts for the total fees charged to uninsured patients or for patients who have health insurance but are receiving out-of-network care.

Figuring out how much people are being charged for hospitalizations when they have insurance and are in-network is complicated. In addition to the “charged amounts,” Fair Health’s dataset includes an “estimated allowed amount” for each state. This figure is generally much lower than the “charged amount” because it reflects the costs of care after insurance companies have negotiated with the health care providers. Insurance companies take that total, cover what they will, and then charge the rest to the patient.

Even after insurance companies negotiate a lower price, the average costs for treating a complex COVID-19 patient still exceed six figures in 16 states. Costs in New Jersey were the highest, at $128,650. They were the lowest in Maryland, at $49,127.

Why do costs vary so much by state? Gelburd explained a number of factors are at play.

“Different communities have different cost of living profiles and labor prices. Malpractice insurance costs vary, and the different technologies used in practices influence price. The negotiations between providers and insurers may also play a role in pricing,” she said.