Woman in Hospital for a Month With COVID Has Nearly $1M in Medical Bills

A woman from Arkansas said she has been left with close to a seven-figure medical bill after she was hospitalized from COVID-19, as high treatment costs add weight to calls for people to get vaccinated.

Shenita Russie, 42, a mobile respiratory therapist, worked in Boston to help COVID patients at the start of the pandemic. She caught the virus and was hospitalized for a month, during which she was put in a medically-induced coma.

She returned to Little Rock to be with her family and required further help to deal with the disease's after-effects.

"The bills? They are incredible," she told THV11, "I mean it was close to a million dollars just for how sick I was on life support."

She said she was still getting steep bills for the aftercare, which included expert help in being shown how to walk again and cardiologist consultations.

Her worker's compensation acted as her insurance, but she faced bills from The University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) and Baptist Health, and the payments are still being settled.

Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine
A dose of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine is prepared in this illustrative image. Exorbitant medical bills for COVID patients are adding weight to calls for people to get the vaccine. Michael Ciaglo/Getty

Although she was diagnosed with the disease before a vaccine was available, she told THV11 that people should consider a jab so they don't face her predicament.

There have been regular stories of eye-watering costs for COVID treatment ever since the start of the pandemic, when Michael Flor revealed he had received a $1.1 million dollar hospital bill, listed over 181 pages, for a stay at the Swedish Medical Center in Issaquah, Washington.

That stint included 62 days in an intensive care unit (ICU) and weeks in an induced coma, The Seattle Times reported in June 2020, noting that insurance, including Medicare, covered the "vast majority" of costs.

However, medical costs are adding to the momentum behind the push for people to get vaccinated, especially as Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said unvaccinated Americans account for "virtually all recent COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths."

This week, Rep. Ted Lieu (D-CA) said the cost of treating unvaccinated people would end up being met by those who were inoculated against COVID-19.

His comment was in response to a video shared on Twitter by Scott Roe, who despite being hospitalized by COVID-19, said he still would not get a vaccine.

"Those of us who are vaccinated will pay the increased costs to the healthcare system for the unvaccinated," Lieu tweeted.

Meanwhile, UAMS CEO Dr. Steppe Mette estimated that the average cost of a COVID patient at his hospital was nearly $25,000 and for those on a ventilator for a month, "probably close to $100,000," and so has urged people to get vaccinated.

"It is an individual's choice whether to get the vaccination or not. That also means that it's an individual responsibility to bear the consequences if they get sick," he told THV11.