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Is COVID medical care about to get more expensive?

During this latest Delta variant-driven wave of COVID-19 cases, there's a good chance Americans will be paying "significantly more" for pandemic medical care, The New York Times reports.

Although insurers are still required by federal law to cover testing for reasons of exposure or display of symptoms, Americans are, more and more, seeking tests for reasons of routine monitoring rather than medical ones. And with the COVID-19 vaccine both readily available and free to all who want it, "insurers are now treating COVID more like any other disease," and "no longer fully covering the costs of care," the Times writes.

"Insurers are confronting the question about whether the costs of Covid treatment should fall on everyone, or just the individuals who have chosen not to get a vaccine," said Cynthia Cox, a vice president at the Kaiser Family Foundation. Notably, 72 percent of large health plans are no longer making COVID treatment free for patients, the Times writes per a Kaiser Family Foundation study.

In fact, as some schools and companies begin to mandate regular testing for the unvaccinated, patients have already begun to receive bills. The most debilitating costs will likely fall on those who need extensive hospital care after COVID-19 infection. Generally, though, the new policies apply to all patients, "including the vaccinated; people who get sick with a breakthrough infection; and children under 12, who are not yet eligible for the vaccine," the Times reports.

"If you have a small kid who gets COVID at school and ends up at the ICU, that family is going to now be stuck with the bill even though that patient did not have the ability to get vaccinated," said Dr. Kao-Ping Chua, a pediatrician at the University of Michigan. Read more at The New York Times.