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Cost to Treat Ebola: $1 Million For Two Patients

It cost more than $1 million to treat two patients sent to the University of Nebraska’s Medical Center. And it's not clear who will pay the bill.
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It cost more than $1 million to treat two patients sent to the University of Nebraska’s Medical Center, the hospital’s chancellor said Tuesday. And it’s still not clear who will pay the bill and how.

It’s the first on-the-record estimate of what it’s cost to treat Ebola patients in the United States. So far, 10 people have been treated on U.S. soil — most recently, Sierra Leonean Dr. Martin Salia, who died Monday in Nebraska.

“At UNMC, it has cost around $1.16 million to treat the two patients directed to us by the federal government. Treatment costs vary based on the severity of the patient when they arrive, but the cost is well beyond the normal costs incurred for an intensive care patient,” the school’s chancellor, Dr. Jeffrey Gold, said in prepared testimony for a hearing of the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s oversight subcommittee.

It cost about $30,000 a day to treat a single Ebola patient, Gold said. Ashoka Mukpo, the NBC camera operator, and Dr. Rick Sacra, the medical missionary, each stayed for about 18 days, Gold said. He said Emory University Hospital incurred similar costs in treating the four patients it took care of.

“In addition to the direct costs, we also take additional beds in the ward out of service when an Ebola patient is being treated which is a direct financial cost to the hospital. We estimate having to take those additional beds out of service has cost $148,000 so far.”

Gold told a separate briefing by the Alliance for Health reform that it is not yet clear who will pay those bills. He said he thought the federal government should.

“I urge Congress to approve funding and policies supporting full reimbursement of the cost of care for these unique cases that are not recoverable from insurance policies. These are patients that federal government directed to UNMC and Emory,” Gold said.

Patients were treated at Nebraska, Emory University Hospital, Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas, the National Institutes of Health and Bellevue Hospital in New York.


-Maggie Fox