Here's why COVID-19 pandemic could help lower our health care costs

Expert urges consumers: Shop for health plans and doctors the same way you shop for a pair of shoes
SANTA CLARA, Calif. (KGO) -- Could the novel coronavirus pandemic actually lead to a reduction of our health care costs? One health expert thinks the answer is yes.

Asya Pereltsvaig knows firsthand the high cost of health care.

"The insurance basically comes to about a third of my income at the moment. So it's, it's very expensive," said the Santa Clara resident.

Pereltsvaig recently lost her job of 20 years as a linguist at a top university.

She is now paying for her entire health plan without subsidies from her employer.

"Since I'm self-employed, I have no paid sick leave. So if I get sick, I earn exactly nothing," she said.

The cost of health insurance for a family of four has gone up 71 percent in 10 years.

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For those with employer-sponsored health plans, it went from $3,515 in 2009 to $6,015 in 2019.

For those like Pereltsvaig without employer subsidies, the actual costs would have been $13,375 in 2009 and $20,576 last year.

Jonathan Wiik is a health consultant and author of Healthcare Evolution: Helping Providers Get Paid in an Era of Uncertainty.

"It's really been a function of pharmaceutical costs, the aging population, technology, uninsured rate and lots and lots of factors," said Wiik. "And there hasn't been much effort on any party to kind of curb them."

Wiik says visits to both doctor's offices and emergency rooms have plunged during the pandemic and have been replaced by televisits.

He thinks changes we've been forced to make could bring costs down.

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"Virtual visits can happen at a much higher capacity than that of an in-person visit," he said. "So I think there's a lot of opportunity from a cost package in delivering care virtually versus in person."

Pereltsvaig says she took advantage of televisits even before the pandemic.

If that leads to lower costs, she's all for it.

"Health care is just that expensive and it's getting more and more so. And it's been kind of a really a source of major stress," she said.

One other note: Wiik urges consumers to comparison shop for health plans and doctors with the same way they shop for a pair of shoes. That could lead to increased competition and lower costs.

Take a look at more stories and videos by Michael Finney and 7 On Your Side.

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