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Study Estimates COVID-19’s Impact on U.S. Medical Costs, Hospital Use

The spread of COVID-19 in the United States could result in hundreds of billions of dollars in direct medical costs, according to a study partially funded by AHRQ and published in Health Affairs. Using data from AHRQ’s Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project and other sources, researchers developed computer models to simulate the financial impact that COVID-19 could have on the U.S. healthcare system. The models also quantified the potential magnitude of the use of resources such as ventilators and hospital beds that would be required under various scenarios. Models based on 20 percent of the population developing symptomatic infections generated a median estimate of 11.2 million hospitalizations, 62.3 million hospital bed days, and 1.6 million ventilators used, costing $163.4 billion in direct medical costs. Researchers also estimated that having 80 percent of the population become symptomatically infected could result in a median of 44.6 million hospitalizations, 249.5 million hospital bed days and 6.5 million ventilators used. In that scenario, direct medical costs could reach $654 billion over the course of the pandemic.

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