An expert breaks down the financial toll of the tragedy surrounding Whitney Houston and Bobby Brown‘s daughter
As Bobbi Kristina Brown fights for her life after being found face-down and unresponsive in her bathtub on Jan. 31, the ongoing struggle is clearly taking an emotional toll on her family. It is also likely taking a growing financial toll.
Brown, the 22-year-old daughter of Bobby Brown and the late Whitney Houston, was rushed to North Fulton Hospital in Roswell, Georgia on Jan. 31. She was later moved to Emory University Hospital in Atlanta and reportedly transferred to a medical rehabilitation facility at the end of March. As time goes on, the bill for her health care ticks up.
But just how much is Brown’s treatment costing? TheWrap spoke to Paul Hughes-Cromwick, senior health economist at the Center for Sustainable Health Spending at the Altarum Institute, which seeks to solve complex systems problems to improve human health, to determine the financial cost.
Determining the cost of Brown’s hospital stay is tricky, Hughes-Cromwick noted, because it’s impossible to determine how much her health insurance plan might cover.
While “a hospital might have a rate on a regular day of $1,000 or $2,000,” Hughes-Crowmick said, the cost was likely much higher in Brown’s case. Reuters reported that Brown was kept on a ventilator until late February. According to the National Institutes of Health, ventilator care generally runs about $6,700 to $10,800 for the first day, decreasing from there.
Typically an insurance company will reach an agreement with the hospital about the charges for such treatment. However, Hughes-Cromwick said, that might not apply in Brown’s situation.
“It could be the case where they have to pay full charges just because they’re famous and they’re supposed to have a lot of money,” Hughes-Cromwick said. “And maybe they don’t have an insurance plan that has done this kind of negotiating with the provider.”
Based on Hughes-Cromwick’s assessment, a 60-day hospital stay would start somewhere between and $60,000 and $120,000.
The cost of Brown’s stay in the rehabilitation facility is clearer. Admittance in a rehab location, Hughes-Cromwick noted, entails “very high costs — as much as a couple thousand dollars or more per day.”
Ballparking on that estimate, Brown’s stay at the rehabilitation facility so far could conceivably have a price tag in the $165,000 range after about 11 weeks, and counting.
If Brown’s condition continues along its bleak path — her grandmother Cissy Houston has previously said there has been a dire lack of improvement in her condition — and she requires long-term care, more bills will follow.
According to Hughes-Cromwick, around-the-clock care for someone at home can run “about $100,000 a year.” And that’s just for starters. Add in an on-call nurse, respiratory technicians, a nurse to manage the tracheotomy tube and other health-care needs, and the cost balloons.
“Next thing you know you can go from that $100,000 to $150,000 area to $200,000 or $250,000, plus therapists that have to be added in,” Hughes-Cromwick said. “I can easily see this mounting to $200,000 or $250,000 a year.”
And that’s not something that most insurance providers are likely to cover. As Hughes-Cromwick explained, “almost nobody” is insured for long-term care — particularly those as young as Brown.
It’s also highly doubtful that health-care workers would be willing to give a discount to someone, like Brown, who’s the child of two successful entertainers. In addition, she is the sole heir to her mother’s estate which has been estimated to be worth at least $20 million.
“For somebody who’s famous or in conjunction with somebody who’s famous, they’re not going to get any bargains, you can believe that,” Hughes-Cromwick said. “Nobody is going to rush to provide bargain care to a celebrity or an heir of a celebrity; that’s just not the way it works.”
Also contributing to the financial burden: Brown’s age, which falls far outside the typical demographic for long-term care.
“Obviously, the prototypical long-term care is an elderly person who has lost their ability to perform activities of daily living. It’s kind of time-limited to when they pass away,” Hughes-Cromwith said. “In these tragic cases where it’s a younger person, it can just go on for a very long time.”
It’s a grim prospect — but a prospect that, as Hughes-Cromwith points out, a growing number of Americans will grapple with in coming years, as the Baby Boomer generation reaches its sunset years.
“We as a country are a lot like the Titanic filled with people who are under this very incorrect impression that they’re going to live these healthy lives, and we’re all going to be doing yoga and running marathons until we’re 85, and then one day we’re going to drop dead. And that’s not what’s going to happen,” he noted.
“We are totally unprepared as a nation for the reality of tens of millions of boomers getting to a point where their functioning has sharply deteriorated, and they very likely don’t have the insurance to cover that long-term care.”