Coronavirus pandemic to cost Americans $16 trillion, study finds

The coronavirus pandemic will end up costing Americans $16 trillion, far more than anyone predicted when the virus first emerged in the U.S. back in March, according to a new study released on Monday.

The study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, was co-authored by former Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers and Harvard University economist David Cutler. Summers was also a top economic adviser to Presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton and is a former president of Harvard.

Their estimated cost includes a theoretical estimate for the value of a human life, and is spread out over the next decade. It also relies on an estimate that the eventual U.S. death toll from the pandemic will more than triple by the end of next year.

But $16 trillion is still an eye-popping number, and underscores the long-term impacts of the novel coronavirus and the U.S.’s inconsistent attempts to contain it. The study is listed in the medical publication as a viewpoint, and does not appear to have been peer-reviewed.

The coronavirus is “the greatest threat to prosperity and well-being the U.S. has encountered since the Great Depression,” the authors write.

If the study is correct, the coronavirus’ eventual impact could be four times the size of the damage done by the 2008 housing bust and subsequent Great Recession. The total cost of the pandemic — including more than 10 weeks of near total lockdown across most of the country, which caused the GDP in second quarter to drop by more than a third — will eclipse the money the U.S. has spent on every war since September 11, 2001, including those in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria, the study says.


Winners and losers in COVID economy

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About half of the price tag, $8.6 trillion, is driven by the long-term health implications and costs for those who contract COVID-19, as well as statistical estimate for the loss of life.

Based on the current death rate, the coronavirus pandemic is likely to lead to a total of 625,000 premature deaths in the United States, the study estimates. It pegs the total cost to society of each death at $7 million, citing a review from earlier this year of statistical and health policy research on the matter.

The study also estimates $2.6 trillion in long-term additional costs from people who survive COVID-19 but have resulting long-term health damage. Mental health costs because of the pandemic will rise by $1.6 trillion, the authors estimate.

10 years of GDP growth thrown off track 

The rest of the coronavirus’ economic toll comes in the form of reduced economic output, which the authors peg at $7.6 trillion, relying on previous estimate from the Congressional Budget Office. The drop in GDP is the cumulative impact of how much lower the GDP will be 10 years from now, versus where it would have been if the coronavirus had never spread.

The paper does not estimate the impact of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES)

How Much Would Trump’s Coronavirus Treatment Cost Most Americans?

The New York Times is investigating the costs associated with testing and treatment for the coronavirus and how the pandemic is changing health care in America. You can read more about the project and submit your medical bills here.

President Trump spent three days in the hospital. He arrived and left by helicopter. And he received multiple coronavirus tests, oxygen, steroids and an experimental antibody treatment.

For someone who isn’t president, that would cost more than $100,000 in the American health system. Patients could face significant surprise bills and medical debt even after health insurance paid its share.

The biggest financial risks would come not from the hospital stay but from the services provided elsewhere, including helicopter transit and repeated coronavirus testing.

Mr. Trump has praised the high quality of care he received at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, and has played down the risk of the virus. “Don’t be afraid of Covid,” Mr. Trump tweeted on Monday, before returning to the White House. “Don’t let it dominate your life.”

Across the country, patients have struggled with both the long-term health and financial effects of contracting coronavirus. Nearly half a million have been hospitalized. Routine tests can result in thousands of dollars in uncovered charges; hospitalized patients have received bills upward of $400,000.

Mr. Trump did not have to worry about the costs of his care, which are covered by the federal government. Most Americans, including many who carry health coverage, do worry about receiving medical care they cannot afford.

For some Americans, the bills could start mounting with frequent tests. Insurers are generally required to pay for those tests when physicians order them, but not when employers do.

The Trump administration made that clear in June, when it issued guidance stating that insurers do not have to pay for “testing conducted to screen for general workplace health and safety.” Instead, patients need to pay for that type of testing themselves. Some might be able to get free tests at public sites, and some employers may voluntarily cover the costs. Others could face significant medical debt from tests delivered at hospitals or urgent care centers.

Covid tests can be expensive. Although they typically cost $100, one emergency room in Texas has charged as much as $6,408 for a drive-through test. About 2.4 percent of coronavirus tests billed to insurers leave the patient responsible for some portion of payment, according to the health data firm Castlight. With 108 million tests performed in the United States, that could amount to millions of tests that leave patients responsible for some share of the cost.

Marta Bartan, who works as a hair colorist in Brooklyn, needed a coronavirus test to return to her job this summer. She received a $1,394 bill from the hospital running the drive-through site where she was tested.

“I was so confused,” said Ms. Bartan, who is contesting the bill. “You go in to get a Covid test expecting it to be free. What could they have possibly

The Cost of Medical Bias When You’re Sick, Black, and Female

This is Race and Medicine, a series dedicated to unearthing the uncomfortable and sometimes life-threatening truth about racism in healthcare. By highlighting the experiences of Black people and honoring their health journeys, we look to a future where medical racism is a thing of the past.


Being a doctor is a unique role. It involves knowing some of the most intimate things about a person, but not really knowing them as a person at all.

The patient’s job is to be transparent about their health, and the doctor’s job is to listen objectively to symptoms and fears to choose the most logical diagnosis. 

Racial bias in the medical field disrupts the trust needed for this relationship to function. 

A biased doctor might disbelieve symptoms or their severity and misdiagnose a condition.

A patient may come to mistrust the doctor, not attend appointments, not follow instructions, or stop sharing key information because history tells them they aren’t taken seriously. 

Reducing bias is critical to eliminating health disparities, especially for Black women.

My run-in with bias

Several years ago, I experienced medical bias when I started having headaches multiple times per week. I had had migraine before, but this was different. 

I felt like I was dragging my body through heavy resistance, like encountering an undertow. I was losing weight. No matter how much water I drank, I was always thirsty and rushing to the bathroom around the clock. 

It seemed I could never eat enough to feel full. When I tried to avoid overeating, I became fatigued, my vision blurred, and I had so much trouble focusing it was hard to drive.

My primary care physician (PCP) cut me off when I tried to explain.

She congratulated me for losing weight and said I just needed to let my brain adjust to food deprivation. When I explained I wasn’t dieting, she sent me to a headache specialist. 

The headache specialist prescribed a medication that didn’t help. I knew they weren’t migraine headaches, but no one listened, even as my fatigue and disorientation increased. 

Once, I even had trouble finding my own house.

By my sixth visit, the symptoms were massively disrupting my life. I wondered if I had type 2 diabetes because of family history. My symptoms seemed to match. 

I knew of a test called HbA1c that provides a snapshot of blood sugar levels. I insisted on being tested. My doctor said she would order labs based on my demographics. 

I thought I was finally getting somewhere — but when the receptionist at the lab printed the list of tests, HbA1c wasn’t present. Instead, it was tests for common STDs. 

I was humiliated, overwhelmed, and no closer to having answers. In the parking lot, I broke down and cried. 

Subtle racism

When Black people share instances of racism, it’s often disregarded as playing the ‘race card’ or as an isolated incident. It’s much more difficult to explain subtle racism than it is to explain blatant acts like burning crosses and