A 70-year-old Seattle man recovered from COVID-19—then he was charged more than $1 million

After surviving a nearly fatal COVID-19 infection, a 70-year-old man in Seattle was billed $1.1 million for his hospital expenses by Swedish Medical Center, according to the Seattle Times

Previously, Michael Flor had made headlines as the longest hospitalized patient for COVID-19, staying at the Swedish Medical Center for 62 days before being released to the applause and cheers of nurses and doctors inside the hosptial.

But then he got his bill, which was 182 pages with more than 3,000 itemized charges, according to the newspaper’s report. The breakdown of costs included: 

  • $9,736 per day for his ICU room, equaling $603,632
  • $408,912 for the 42 days he spent in an isolation chamber 
  • $82,215 for the use of a ventilator for 29 days ($2,835 per day) 

Because Flor has medical insurance, including Medicare, he won’t have to pay most of the $1.1 million. Congress also pledged $100 billion to help hospitals and insurance companies weather the pandemic, so Flor probably won’t have to pay the Medicare Advantage policy’s out-of-pocket charges, which could have cost him around $6,000.

Flor told the Seattle Times that seeing the breakdown of his medical costs made him feel guilty. 

“I feel guilty about surviving,” Flor said. “There’s a sense of, ‘Why me?’ Why did I deserve all this?’ Looking at the incredible cost of it all definitely adds to that survivor’s guilt.”

But critics of the American healthcare system say this is a perfect example of its flaws. A columnist from the Guardian, a U.K.-based newspaper, wrote in his own report about Flor that those left paying co-payments, deductibles, or a percentage of the bill are “victims of America’s immoral and Kafkaesque healthcare system.” 

“The fallout from coronavirus, even in a world with a vaccine, promises to be more painful for Americans than Europeans who have health plans subsidized by their national governments,” Ross Barkan wrote. “For Americans with shoddy health insurance or no insurance at all, the hospital bills may be staggering.”  

Sources: Seattle Times, Guardian 

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