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Arkansas woman who survived month-long COVID hospitalization billed nearly $1 million

The medical bills that come with contracting COVID-19 are financially impacting people no matter how long your hospital stay may be.

LITTLE ROCK, Ark — Health officials at UAMS are looking at the costs for COVID-19 patients as cases continue to surge in Arkansas.

Dr. Steppe Mette, the CEO at UAMS, said the hospital started keeping new records to calculate costs for those patients.

He said that if an individual contracts COVID-19, they and their insurance company are going to bear the cost while COVID-19 vaccinations are free.

Dr. Mette put the average cost of a COVID patient at UAMS at nearly $25,000.

"For somebody who's on a ventilator in an ICU for a month, it's going to be a lot higher than that. Probably close to $100,000," he said.

Dr. Mette said most patients who are vaccinated and experiencing severe COVID symptoms are rare and based on another health factor complication.

Breakthrough cases can experience mild symptoms or only need short hospital stays. 

"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," said Dr. Mette. 

We previously interviewed Emily Bennett about her husband Chad who was on a ventilator with COVID-19 earlier this month. They just decided to get the vaccine, before both getting the virus.

RELATED: Arkansas in for 'couple very hard months' as COVID surges, officials say

In an update, she said Chad's condition is good some days and then scary on others.

"Right now, before our insurance, he was charged $128,294 so I've received a letter in the mail and I guess we're waiting on our insurance to take over and we'll see what we have to owe," said Bennett.

She said Chad's income supported the family as she was a stay-at-home mom. They have four young children together. 

Chad is currently at Baptist Health in Little Rock. 

Baptist Health said the average charge per COVID patient is approximately $62,000. That represents a range from a three day stay being $25,000 to a critically ill patient that might stay for months going up to $600,000.

42-year-old Shenita Russie knows firsthand about being critically ill with the virus. 

She was a mobile respiratory therapist who traveled to Boston to help COVID-19 patients at the beginning of the pandemic. After contracting the virus, she was in a medically induced coma and had to stay in the hospital for a little over a month. 

When she returned to Little Rock to be with her family, she had to seek outside help for lingering effects from the virus.

"The bills? They were incredible. I mean it was close to a million dollars for how sick I was on life support," said Russie.

She was diagnosed before a vaccine was available, but said she wants people now to consider it so they don't end up like her or worse.

Her worker's compensation is supposed to serve as insurance, but initially she was billed by UAMS and Baptist Health. Her bills have been threatened to go to collections, affecting her credit. 

Although confusion in paying them back is being settled, the numbers are still there for how much after care for COVID treatments would be.

She still has breathing problems today, and sometimes has to walk with a cane. 

She had to learn to walk again after contracting COVID-19.

The experience has caused PTSD and severe depression for the mother of three. She hasn't been able to work since getting sick. 

Dr. Mette recommends still wearing a mask even if you're fully vaccinated if you're around people that you're unsure of their vaccination status.

"That is supported by the CDC and other public health officials. Especially, f you're in population with COVID cases that are extremely high," said Dr. Mette. 

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