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Americans Fear the Costs of Coronavirus Treatment as well as the Disease Itself

Published: March 10th, 2020

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  • Four Out of 10 Say They’d Have to Borrow to Pay for Treatment,
  • While One Third Say the Government Should Pay All the Costs, 
  • And a Mere 3% Say They Should Pay Out of Their Own Pockets

Amid the nation’s growing fears of the dangerous coronavirus, around one third of Americans say the government should pay the costs of treating the highly contagious virus. That includes bills for screening (41%), medical treatment (29%), and the eventual vaccine prescription (35%). And even more combined — about half of all adults – say their health insurance should pay those costs, either fully or all except for copays and deductibles. 

Overall, only 3% of Americans say they should pay for treating the coronavirus (COVID-19) out of their own pockets.

There are generational splits on some important cost issues. For example, a higher percentage of younger adults say the government should pay for testing (48%) as opposed to people 55 and older (34%). Also, adults 18 to 34 feel the government should pay for treatment (32%) and the vaccine (40%). Adults 55 and up do not feel as strongly about treatment (25%) or the vaccine (31%).

Those are among the key findings from HealthCare.com, a leader in technology-enabled health insurance solutions, based on a March 4 and  5 online survey of 2,498 adults conducted by the polling firm YouGov. This nationwide survey has a margin of error of two percentage points, plus or minus.  

Almost Half of U.S. Adults Not Confident They Can Handle Costs

Americans are looking to others to pick up any coronavirus costs as they struggle to imagine how they could pay the bills if they got the rapidly spreading global virus. Virtually half (48%) say they are not very confident they could deal with the costs (23%) — or not at all confident (25%). Only 31% say they could pay out of their savings, while 42% say they would borrow through their credit card (22%), their family (12%) or their bank (8%). 

Younger people 18 to 34 are twice as likely to borrow from family members than the overall public, including a mere 4% of those 55 or older. 

What’s more, a remarkable 29% say they don’t know how they would handle the bills if they got the virus.     

Even Americans with Insurance Worry

Even many adults with health insurance are worried about costs. Just under one in three combined do not feel confident they have adequate insurance to cover the possible coronavirus bills (20%) or have no confidence whatsoever (10%).    

Worse, a majority of those without health insurance say a coronavirus diagnosis could be financially devastating to them. Of the uninsured surveyed, 59% say they are not at all financially prepared to deal with the cost of the illness. That is in sharp contrast to those with insurance. For example, fewer than half as many (26%) who are insured through public insurance, such as Medicare, Medicaid or the VA, say the virus would cause them financial hardship, and only 15% with private or employer insurance say that as well.  

Public Fear Driving Change in Habits

With all the concern about the virus, Americans are taking steps to not catch it. Nearly six out of 10 adults say they have changed their habits to protect themselves, including stockpiling. A full 15% say they are stockpiling soap and sanitizer, and 11% are stocking up on food. Plus, 20% say they are avoiding public places, 7% are wearing face masks in public, 7% are working more from home, and 5% have canceled overseas trips.

Also, 44% say they are washing their hands more regularly.

Parents with Young Children More Cautious

Parents with young children are being even more proactive. For instance, a higher percentage of them are getting screened (5%), buying face masks (12%), stockpiling food (16%), stockpiling sanitizer or soap (21%), working from home (11%) canceled overseas travel plans (9%), and avoiding public areas (22%).

But, worth noting, few if any of those surveyed say they have been tested for the coronavirus — only 2% overall and no one 55 or older (0%). 

In addition, 41% say they are doing nothing different, including 48% who live in the Midwest, far from the initial outbreak in Washington State two weeks ago. 

Most Won’t Wait to Seek Treatment

Overall, nearly six in 10 adults (59%) say they would not wait to seek treatment if they suspected they had the coronavirus. That includes 73% of those over 55 years old — far more than those 18 to 34 (43%). 

One in 10 Plan to Do Nothing

But despite the general fears, nearly one in 10 adults (9%) say they would not seek treatment even if they suspected they had the coronavirus. One third of them (34%) say they would not seek treatment because of the high cost of health care. Another 34% say they are healthy enough to ride out the virus. And one in four of the women in this group said they avoid doctors at all costs, compared to about one in six men.

Methodology

HealthCare.com commissioned YouGov Plc to conduct the survey. All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 2,498 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken on March 4-5, 2020. The survey was carried out online and meets rigorous quality standards. It employed a non-probability-based sample using both quotas upfront during collection and then a weighting scheme on the back end designed and proven to provide nationally representative results. The survey has a margin of error of two percentage points, plus or minus. 

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