President Trump is fighting a virus that has afflicted hundreds of thousands of Americans, but almost nothing about his gold-plated treatment reflects the reality of regular patients.
Mr. Trump spent three days in his own private suite in the hospital. He arrived and left by helicopter. And he received multiple coronavirus tests, oxygen, steroids and an experimental antibody treatment available to a fraction of the population.
When he emerged from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center this week, he appeared on a balcony at the White House, tore off his mask, and proclaimed on Twitter that the public — often saddled with unexpected medical bills for less personalized treatment — should not “be afraid of Covid.”
For someone who isn’t president, the stay would have cost more than $100,000 in the American health system. And the biggest financial risks for people not enjoying blanket subsidized coverage paid by taxpayers would come not from the hospital stay but from ancillary services, including helicopter transit and repeated coronavirus testing.
Prudencio Matias Mendoza’s brother, Mariano, died from the coronavirus in late July, and in the past week, Mr. Matias Mendoza, 38, has been following Mr. Trump’s bout with the virus.
He supports some of the president’s policies. But he could not help but feel angry to see Mr. Trump and other officials ignoring social distancing and mask-wearing mandates.
“The president is not a god,” Mr. Matias Mendoza said. “Everyone has to do their part. This is a virus that comes to kill.”
A woman in Brooklyn was reminded of the $4,000 she was charged for medication for her father, who eventually died from the coronavirus, as she observed Mr. Trump’s treatment.
And one man in Texas said he understood why the president of the United States would have top-flight doctors, but could not help comparing the place where Mr. Trump was treated with the facility where his 87-year-old mother became sick and died.
Health economists are only starting to understand the full costs of coronavirus treatment; Many, but not all, health insurers have said they will not apply co-payments or deductibles to patients’ coronavirus hospital stays, which could help shield patients from large bills.
Uninsured patients, however, could be stuck with the entire hospital charge and not receive any discounts. While the Trump administration did set up a fund to cover coronavirus testing and treatment costs for the uninsured, The Times has reported that Americans without health insurance have received large bills for their hospital stays.
Mr. Trump so far seems to have benefited not only from power, money and access to first-class medical treatment, but also timing. He caught the virus seven months into the pandemic, after the country had built up supplies and doctors had honed their understanding of the disease.
One of his treatments, the steroid dexamethasone, was not used widely to treat patients at the beginning of the pandemic and was not adopted by some hospital officials in the United States until this summer.