Costs for patients seeking care for COVID-19 vary dramatically from city to city within the US — and even within the same city, according to a new study from Castlight Health. Costs also vary depending on the source of care — whether a telehealth provider, primary-care doctor, urgent-care clinic or emergency room.
“While the test for COVID-19 may be made available at no cost, individuals seeking care for suspected COVID-19 may be faced with other significant out-of-pocket costs for that care,” said Maeve O’Meara, CEO of Castlight Health. “Sadly, those bills may be coming right as many Americans are losing their paychecks, creating real affordability-of-care issues. Costs vary widely across cities within the US, within cities, and depending on the site of care. During this public health crisis, it is more important than ever that people have the tools they need to find high-quality care in a timely and affordable manner.”
Federal coronavirus relief measures have directed private health plans to waive the cost of the COVID-19 test and the doctor visit associated with it. However, people who seek care may be responsible for other costs required for a diagnosis, including flu testing, chest X-rays, and bacterial, viral or blood-culture tests, Castlight Health said.
The study found that the cost for patients exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms varies dramatically:
- In Los Angeles, the cost for a primary care visit and standard lab testing can range from $304 to $4,447.
- In Dallas, the cost ranges from $193 to $4,308.
- In Miami, the cost ranges from $354 to $5,729.
Provider type or site of care can also affect costs significantly.
- In the New York metro area, a visit to evaluate symptoms is an average of $79 for a telehealth consultation, $235 for a primary care visit, $352 for an urgent care visit, and $2,321 for an ER visit.
- In Miami, patients pay an average of $79 for a telehealth consultation, $189 for a primary care visit, $483 for an urgent care visit, and $1,524 for an ER visit.
“During this incredibly stressful pandemic outbreak, it is critical that people have a clear understanding of the care they need, and how much that care is likely to cost,” said Dena Bravata, M.D., Castlight advisor and former senior scholar at the Stanford Center for Primary Care and Outcomes Research. “Castlight’s COVID-19 cost analysis sheds light on the vastly different costs patients seeking care associated with COVID-19 will see depending on where they live and where they choose to receive care.”