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U.S. private health system may discourage COVID-19 testing: doctor

Last Updated Mar 4, 2020 at 10:29 am PDT

A health worker checks the temperature of tourist from Wuhan, China, as he waits for a charter flight back to Wuhan at the Suvarnabhumi airport, Bangkok, Thailand, Friday, Jan. 31, 2020. A group of Chinese tourists who have been trapped in Thailand since Wuhan was locked down due to an outbreak of new virus returned to China on Friday. (AP Photo/Gemunu Amarasinghe)

The cost of getting tested for COVID-19 in America's private health care system may present hurdles for sick people

People in gig economy may need to choose between getting paid or taking un-paid sick days

Dr. Anna Banerji says most people recover from COVID-19 on their own

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – America’s private approach to health care could hurt efforts to contain COVID-19, according to a health expert.

University of Toronto associate professor Dr. Anna Banerji says when patients must pay out of pocket to get tested, sometimes up to $3,000, they may decide against it.

“I think that it’s more difficult to contain it if there are people who are reluctant to come in to get tested,” she said.

The increasing number of gig economy workers is also a concern, she says, because most do not have health care coverage and must choose between getting paid or taking an un-paid sick day.

“If someone doesn’t want to get tested because of lack of coverage for health care, then they may have the coronavirus and they may have milder symptoms, but they’re less likely to know that the viral symptoms they have is not just a cold. That could increase the spread,” she said.

There were just over 100 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in 15 states as of Tuesday morning, and the disease has killed nine people in Washington state, including at least four from one nursing home in near Seattle.

Worldwide more than 90,000 people have been infected, of which 3,100 have died. Banerji urges people not to panic though, because most people who do not have compromised immune systems seem to recover from this virus on their own.