Dec. 7, 2022 -- About 6 million Americans have received the medication Paxlovid for free to prevent COVID-19 hospitalization and even death.

But next year, the government will no longer subsidize the cost, and Americans will have to pay for the Pfizer drug just like any other medicine.

The cost hasn’t been announced, but Kaiser Health News reports it will probably be much more than what the government has been paying: $530 for each course bought in bulk at 20 million doses.

“Millions of people who are at the highest risk of severe illness and are least able to afford the drug — the uninsured and seniors — may have to pay the full price,” Kaiser Health News says. “And that means fewer people will get the potentially lifesaving treatments, experts said.”

Paxlovid should hit the private market around the middle of 2023. Similar medications will be “privatized” sooner.

Jill Rosenthal, director of public health policy at the Center for American Progress, a left-leaning think tank said “the numbers will go way down” if it costs several hundred dollars.

This year, a quarter-million Americans have died from COVID-19, the vast majority over age 65. That’s more deaths than caused by stroke or diabetes.

Medicare Part D, which covers almost 50 million seniors, is prevented by federal law from paying for the treatment pills. An FDA emergency use authorization makes the treatments available now, but Medicare Part D needs full approval to go beyond that, and the process can take years.

Next year the government also is expected to stop paying for Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine. The price of those shots will soar from $30 the government pays to $120.

Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla last month said that will make Paxlovid and its vaccine “a multibillion-dollars franchise.”