The coronavirus pandemic has caused national health care spending to go down this year — the first time that’s ever happened.
The big picture: Any big recession depresses the use of health services because people have less money to spend. But this pandemic has also directly attacked the health system, causing people to defer or skip care for fear of becoming infected.
By the numbers: Year-to-date spending on health services is down about 2% from last year. Health spending for the calendar year may end up lower than it was in 2019.
- In April, when the pandemic forced many facilities to temporarily close, spending on health services had fallen an eye-popping 32% on an annualized basis.
- The largest drop-offs were in outpatient care. Telehealth visits increased dramatically but did not make up all of the difference.
Context: This is the first time expenditures for patient care have fallen year-over-year since data became available in the 1960s.
What’s next: Spending and utilization have been recovering, but could fall again if the current spike in cases prompts either hospitals or patients to again hold off on elective care.
- There has been a decline in cancer screenings and visits to manage chronic conditions, but it will take more research before we know precisely how this has affected outcomes.