Chesterton Tribune



One of four C19 patients in Porter County visits ER; one of seven hospitalized; local patients healthier than statewide

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Last month the Chesterton Tribune requested from the Porter County Health Department specific categories of data on COVID-19 hospitalizations in the county: the total number of hospitalizations since the pandemic began here, the total number of patients treated in ICU, the average length of stay, and demographics on hospitalized patients.

Those data the Health Department ultimately did not provide to the Tribune, although a spokesperson did offer certain broad-brush generalizations and anecdotal information which found their way into a July 7 story headlined “What we know and don’t know about the COVID-19 pandemic in Porter County.”

In fact, however, those data are readily available, as the Tribune has learned from Duneland School Board Member Tom Schnabel, who along with his colleagues has been carefully tracking the progress of the pandemic in Porter County as the School Board prepares learning and safety policies for academic year 2020-21.

Thanks to the Regenstrief Institute of Indianapolis, we know a great deal more about the local COVID-19 pandemic than the Health Department’s dashboard--as excellent as it is--has told us.

The Regenstrief Institute is affiliated with the IU School of Medicine, the IU Richard M. Fairbanks School of Public Health at IUPUI, Purdue University, and IUPUI. Its mission statement, according to its website: “to connect and innovate for better health” and to “envision a world where better information empowers people to end disease and realize true health.”

To that end, Regenstrief has compiled COVID-19 hospitalization data--among other things--from all 92 Indiana counties, and what the data tend to show is that Porter County is mirroring closely the statewide data on unique hospitalizations, unique ER visits, and ICU admissions.

On other hand, the average Porter County COVID-19 patient appears to be healthier overall than the average Hoosier, with fewer co-morbidity factors, since the average length-of-stay (ALOS) in hospital here--in ICU, in non-ICU, and overall--is significantly shorter than the statewide ALOS.

Regenstrief’s data suggest one more thing as well: although it’s true that most persons in Porter County who test positive for COVID-19 never set foot in a hospital, those who do will want health insurance.

Note: Regenstrief’s data lag behind the Porter County Health Department’s by several days:

-- Unique ER visits: As of Monday, 214 of the 872 persons in Porter County who’ve tested positive for COVID-19 visited an emergency room, or 24.5 percent (statewide 24.3 percent).

-- Unique patient hospitalizations: 128 of the 872 have been admitted to hospital, or 14.7 percent (statewide 14.9 percent).

-- ICU admissions: 22 of the 872 have been admitted to ICU, or 2.5 percent (statewide 3.2 percent).

Average Length of Stay

Regenstrief provides data on average length-of-stay in days (ALOS) in three different categories: overall ALOS, ALOS in ICU, and ALOS in non-ICU. In each category, Porter County’s ALOS is substantively shorter than the state’s, indicating generally healthier patients with fewer pre-existing conditions in Porter County:

-- Overall ALOS: 10.6 days (statewide 22.1).

-- ALOS in ICU: 9.1 days (statewide 15.8).

-- ALOS in non-ICU: 10.7 days (statewide 23.2).

Demographics of Hospitalized Patients

As to be expected, as of Monday nearly all persons hospitalized for COVID-19 in Porter County have been in the older demographics: 98 were 50+, or 77 percent of the total. Statewide, the proportion is nearly exactly the same: 75 percent of all persons hospitalized have been 50+

The remaining persons hospitalized in Porter County--or 23 percent of the total--have been younger than 50 (25 percent statewide).

Sixteen of those--or 12.5 percent--were in the 40-49 demographic (statewide 12 percent).

The remaining 14--or 11 percent--were younger than 40, without any specific demographic breakout. “To maximize patient privacy, counts below five will appear blank,” Regenstrief states. That would mean, though, that these 14 patients are more or less evenly distributed among the 0-19, 20-29, and 30-39 demographics.

We do know, on the other hand, the ALOS for each of the demographics in Porter County, which again prove to be far shorter for any given demographic than the statewide ALOS:

-- 0-19: overall, 3 days; ICU, 3 days (statewide 8.6 and 17.9 respectively).

-- 20-29: overall, 13 days; ICU, 2.3 days (statewide: 15.7 and 15.4).

-- 30-39: overall, 6.5 days; ICU, 2.0 days (statewide: 16.2 and 11.9).

-- 40-49: overall, 8.6 days; ICU, 10.6 days (statewide: 23.2 and 15.5).

-- 50-59: overall, 8.8 days; ICU, 16.7 days (statewide: 27.1 and 21.5).

-- 60-69: overall, 11.2 days; ICU, 4.6 days (statewide: 25.3 and 18.1).

-- 70-79: overall, 11.7 days; ICU, 7.0 days (statewide: 22.0 and 16.1).

-- 80+: overall, 9.6 days; ICU, 8.3 days (statewide: 16.1 and 10.3).

Cost of Hospitalization

The point of these numbers is roughly this: the chance of COVID-19 making any infected person sick enough to be hospitalized is--all things being equal--one out of seven. All things, of course, aren’t equal, with seniors far more likely to be admitted to hospital, to stay longer, to be in ICU, and to die than younger folks are.

Still--according to Fair Health, an independent nonprofit which manages the nation’s largest database of privately billed health insurance claims--the average cost of a hospital stay for a COVID-19 patient without health insurance is $73,300. That’s also the cost of a COVID-19 patient seeing an out-of-network provider and whose health insurance plan has no out-of-network benefit.

The in-network hospital stay of a COVID-19 patient with health insurance is far less expensive, yet still only by half: $38,221, the amount which the plan providers have agreed to accept as full payment, some portion of which the patient will be on the hook for, depending on the cost-sharing provisions of his or her plan.

The questions would be, then, as people go about their business not wearing masks, congregating at parties, bars, and beaches: How do you like your odds, and how comfortable are you with your health insurance plan?


Posted 7/14/2020




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