That feeling when your entire house probably got the coronavirus

by Joe Kent, March 2020

After the Elizabeth Warren campaign came to an end the first week of March, I wasted no time moving out of Boston. Harvard and other nearby campuses were already shutting down, and regardless of the coronavirus I wanted to head back to New York to start my job search.

By the second week of March, I got all of my stuff packed in storage (thank you Adam Garner), I entered quarantine mode and essentially locked myself inside my parents house.

Unfortunately, both of my parents still had to leave the house to go to work, and a week ago my father came home not feeling too well. And just like wildfire, the illness was able to spread very quickly and got to both myself and my mother.

The great irony of this situation is that my father and I rarely get sick, especially for this long. I could not tell you the last time I felt the need to use a sick day. For most of the month I was telling my mom the common myth that has gone around, I’m a healthy young 23 year old, I probably won’t show symptoms. That myth has been busted (I’ve watched a lot of mythbusters reruns in the past week, apologies).

The good news is everyone in the Kent household is on the road to feeling better.

We haven’t been tested yet, so I could not tell you with 100% certainty we had COVID-19, but from everything I’ve read about the symptoms and understand about our situation it is the most likely explanation. Which means our family is incredibly lucky we were able to get through it on our own, and I’ve been thinking a lot about the people that aren’t as fortunate, and the absolute mess of the healthcare system we have in this country.

If you’re suffering some of the worst symptoms of the coronavirus that require hospitalization, such as pneumonia, your healthcare insurance is still going to leave you with a significant bill. A recent study looked at the out-of-pocket costs for COVID-19 treatment and found individuals with generous employer sponsored healthcare plans will still face well over $1,000 in out of pocket costs, along with any surprise fees that might happen.

Of course, that study is based on employer provided healthcare plans, and millions of people have been laid off due to the coronavirus disrupting the economy. That leaves people with half a dozen options.

If you were recently laid off from a job providing your healthcare, you can enroll in COBRA. COBRA lets you keep the plan you had for a limited period of time, but you have to cover the premium cost your employer was kicking in, which is likely a few hundred dollars.

Or if you’re still fortunate to be under 26 (like me), and your parents have a family coverage health care plan, you can be a dependent on their plan. Depending on your family income or age, you might be eligible for Medicaid of Medicare.

This is all unnecessarily confusing, in comparison to say… one nationalized healthcare plan called Medicare For All (*various M4A plans treat existing Government healthcare programs differently).

A frequent refrain on Medicare For All is that “people like their insurance”.

  1. No they don’t.
  2. Tell that to the people who lost their job.

What people want is the security of knowing if they need medical care, they’re not walking out with a gigantic bill they can’t afford to pay. And while a job or a union with a good healthcare plan gives that impression, it’s built on the assumption you’ll always have that job.

But there is another big problem that is likely going to hit everyone who thought they were safe with their great employer healthcare plan.

The coronavirus is going to lead to months of strain on the American healthcare system, and a dramatic rise in hospitalizations that could have never been accounted for. Healthcare insurance companies are going to spend a significant amount of capital, and in order to recoup costs they’ll need to raise rates. A recent study says 2021 premium rates might rise anywhere from 4-40% due to COVID-19.

Health carriers are in the process of setting rates for 2021. If carriers must recoup 2020 costs, price for the same level of costs next year, and protect their solvency, 2021 premium increases to individuals and employers from COVID-19 alone could range from 4 percent to more than 40 percent.

This is bad, and it is becoming literally apocalyptic for people to think the private healthcare insurance industry is a good idea.

If the immediate economic consequences of the coronavirus and the rise in premiums we will face months later do not change the consciousness of America when it comes to Medicare For All, I have no idea what will.