This post continues our ongoing series of articles on how COVID will impact employer healthcare costs. In today’s blog, we’ll discuss four ways that COVID will likely lead to increased costs for employers.
- As healthcare providers begin to reopen and quarantines are lifted, routine treatments will be significantly more expensive in a post-COVID world. During the COVID pandemic, hundreds of thousands of routine visits and procedures were delayed. As healthcare providers reopen, there will be a large surge in demand for simple procedures and medical imaging. Under normal circumstances, dedicated imaging centers and surgery centers would be the most cost-effective locations for individuals to receive the care they need. However, the large surge in demand will push many people into hospital settings to receive the testing and treatment they need. Unfortunately, in hospital settings, healthcare costs can double, triple, or even potential quadruple depending on the nature of the procedures.
- During COVID, access to prescriptions has impacted the healthcare outcomes of those with chronic conditions. Under normal circumstances, individuals on long-term maintenance medications typically have access to 30-day supplies. During the COVID outbreak, many individuals with pre-existing conditions felt uncomfortable leaving their homes to refill prescriptions, leading to lower adherence rates to prescription regimens. In fact, recent research indicates that as much as one third of Americans avoided receiving necessary care due to fear of contracting COVID. When individuals with chronic conditions aren’t connected to care, this can mean substantial costs being passed onto employers. Non-adhering diabetics can cost an extra $5,000 per year. And individuals who forego mental health medications can cost an extra $10,000-$15,000.
- Delays in treatments for those with chronic pain may lead to substantial treatment costs for opioid addictions. Every day, thousands of individuals undergo musculoskeletal treatments for elective procedures to reduce or eliminate chronic pain. However, due to COVID, all of those procedures were delayed. In non-COVID times, these individuals would be able to seek other forms of care, such as physical therapy, to help manage that pain while waiting for corrective surgery. However, during COVID individuals were also unable to access these treatment options. Many frustrated patients turned to their doctors for pain medication to help manage pain during surgery delays. These unfortunate circumstances may very well likely lead to future costs due to opioid dependency. Generally speaking, the ongoing opioid crisis costs the U.S. roughly $78.5 billion each year. And research estimates that opioid addiction costs $14,000 in direct claims costs per patient per year.
- Delayed preventative care creates future risks for more serious conditions and costly treatment plans. In many cases, preventative screenings and treatments are crucial for limiting the amount of critical care individuals need. During non-COVID times, cancer screenings were rising in frequency and are generally recommended by providers. In the case of most treatable cancers, such as breast cancer or colon cancer, early detection is the best strategy to limit complications and ensure positive patient outcomes. Unfortunately, during COVID-19, preventative care and screenings were halted for several months. These delays are likely to lead to substantially more serious diagnoses that are harder to treat and more expensive to provide care for.