A severe influenza pandemic could cost the U.S. health care system $290 billion, according to a new report sponsored by the Society of Actuaries. The report stressed the need for disaster planning and pandemic preparedness, particularly on the part of health insurers.
The authors classified influenza pandemics into three categories, based on past outbreaks: average seasonal influenza, which claims about 36,000 lives each year; a moderate pandemic, which assumes 209,000 lives lost; and a severe pandemic, which predicts 1.9 million deaths.
The total health care cost of a seasonal pandemic is about $17 billion, while a moderate one would total $49 billion, according to the report. Traditional health insurers could potentially face $2.6 billion in cost for seasonal influenza, while a severe pandemic could cost them $38 billion.
“More emphasis needs to be placed on practical steps that should be taken to prepare for pandemic, and, more importantly, how the health insurance industry can position itself for recovery,” the authors said in the report.