The estimated "preventable cost" of treating unvaccinated adults for COVID-19 in Connecticut's 27 acute care hospitals was $4.2 million for June and $5.3 million for July, according to a new analysis.
The final tally could be higher, however. The Connecticut Hospital Association, which provided the figures, relied on a national model developed by KFF (Kaiser Family Foundation) and the Peterson Center on Healthcare that assumed the approximate cost is $20,000 per COVID-related admission.
"I think it serves as sort of a directional data point to show there is just an enormous strain on the system, generally, for COVID," said Paul Kidwell, senior vice president for policy at the Connecticut Hospital Association, who noted how the disease has greatly impacted families, hospital staff and hospital expenses.
"Also, it is an important piece of data to show that it's really important that individuals who are eligible to be vaccinated get vaccinated because the vaccines have been proven very effective in keeping individuals out of the hospital."
There were a total of 773 new hospital admissions in Connecticut of adult patients with confirmed COVID-19 diagnoses in June and July, according to the state's hospital association. Using assumptions in the Kaiser and Peterson national model, an estimated 98.3% or 760 of those patients, were unvaccinated. Of those 760, an estimated 562 were unvaccinated adults hospitalized primarily for COVID-19.
Using the same model, an estimated 472 of those 562 hospitalizations in June and July could have been prevented by vaccination. Nationally, Kaiser and Peterson estimate preventable COVID hospitalizations cost the U.S. health care system more than $2 billion over the same two months.
"Obviously we want to make sure that everybody gets the best of care and that they recover, but there are some serious costs to people who are not vaccinated and the strain that it puts on our health care system," said Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff, D-Norwalk, who requested the analysis from the state hospital association.
Duff told The Associated Press it's likely that much of the estimated cost of unvaccinated hospitalizations will ultimately be borne by taxpayers, individuals with private insurance and businesses. Delta Airlines announced last week it will charge its employees on the company health plan $200 a month if they fail to get vaccinated against COVID-19, a policy the airline's top executive says is necessary given the average hospital stay for the virus costs the airline $50,000. Delta is self-insured.
"This surcharge will be necessary to address the financial risk the decision to not vaccinate is creating for our company," CEO Ed Bastian said in a memo to employees.
Meanwhile, state Comptroller Kevin Lembo warned Wednesday that the "lingering uncertainty" surrounding the fast-spreading COVID-19 Delta variant is impacting Connecticut's economy and "jeopardizing the progress made over the last few months." He said concerns about the variant and rising infection and hospitalization rates have led to modest drops in consumer spending and consumer confidence.
Despite such worries, the state added 9,400 jobs in July, marking the seventh consecutive month of employment gains.
"Even with the surge of new COVID cases, employment trends show signs of consistent recovery, particularly in the leisure and hospitality sector. Wages have been rising and may be further aided in Connecticut as the minimum wage was increased to $13.00 per hour on Aug. 1," according to a statement from Lembo's office.
State figures show 712 more confirmed or probable cases of COVID-19 have been reported since Tuesday. The number of hospitalizations in Connecticut dropped by three, to a total of 360. Hartford County has the largest number, at 123, followed by New Haven County at 102 patients.