Pre And Post Coronavirus Unemployment Rates By State, Industry, Age Group, And Race

https://www.forbes.com/sites/mikepatton/2020/06/28/pre-and-post-coronavirus-unemployment-rates-by-state-industry-age-group-and-race/#65c42c6555eb

Unemployment by State-May 2019 to May 2020

The coronavirus has decimated the U.S. economy and benched nearly 40 million American workers. In the past several days, the U.S. has logged its highest number of new Covid-19 cases since the pandemic began. These combined with other factors, which we will discuss, is jeopardizing the future employment of millions of workers and the viability of thousands of businesses. Here’s how unemployment has increased for every state, industry, age group, and race, and why.

Unemployment by State

The coronavirus and subsequent stay at home orders hit the labor force especially hard. As states attempted to reopen, a resurgence in the virus is causing many businesses to close again, some by choice, others by government mandate.

Nevada has been hit the hardest as the unemployment rate in the Silver State rose from 4.0% in May 2019 to a whopping 25.3% in May 2020. Nevada’s economy is heavily reliant on leisure and hospitality, which had the brunt of the job losses. Hawaii, the second hardest hit state saw unemployment rise from 2.7% in May 2019 to 22.6% in May 2020. Which is the only other state with unemployment above 20% in May 2020? Michigan, where unemployment rose from 4.2% to 21.2% year over year. What state has fared best? Nebraska, which also has one of the most diverse economies of all states. Deriving nearly 50% of its total GDP from five different industries, unemployment in the Cornhusker State rose from 3.1% to a modest 5.2% from May 2019 to May 2020. Unemployment numbers for all states are shown in the following chart.

Unemployment by Industry

As mentioned in the previous section, the states that have fared best either have a more diverse economy or do not rely heavily on industries that have been hardest hit by the coronavirus. The most negatively affected is the leisure and hospitality industry where unemployment rose 618% from a low of 5.0% in May 2019 to a staggering 35.9% in May 2020. At a distant second, but still reeling, is the wholesale and retail trade industry, which saw unemployment rise from 4.2% to 15.1% during the same period. The rest of the industries are listed in the following chart.

Unemployment by Industry-May 2019 to May 2020

Unemployment by Age Group

Businesses need two things to exist: workers and customers. Without customers, there is no need for workers or the business for that matter. Some businesses require highly skilled workers while others operate well using unskilled labor. It is this unskilled labor group that has been hardest hit.

The greatest rise in unemployment is among workers under age 25. This is likely due to three factors. Younger workers typically have fewer marketable skills, less work experience, and less seniority. Many of these workers are in industries that have felt the greatest pain. Unemployment rates by age group are contained in the following chart.

Unemployment by Age Group-May 2019 to May 2020

Unemployment by Race/Ethnicity

Question: Prior to Covid-19, was unemployment among blacks / African Americans at a record low as President Trump has claimed? Using the available data, which extends back to January 1972, the answer is yes. This new record low was achieved in October and November of 2019 when unemployment among black or African American workers fell to 5.1%. The previous record low was 5.2% in December 1973. The current rate is 16.8%, which is less than the highest rate of 20.7% logged in December 1982. The most recent high in unemployment for this group was 19.3% in March 2010. It has been steadily declining since then. Numbers for White, Asian, and Hispanic or Latino and black or African American workers are listed in the following chart.

Unemployment by Race or Ethnicity-May 2019 to May 2020

Businesses need workers, workers need businesses, and both depend on customers. Since the pandemic began, consumer demand has fallen sharply. With the probability that a vaccine will not be available until early 2021 at the soonest, plus a disregard for recommended safety protocols by many individuals, namely wearing masks and social distancing, it is highly unlikely that the economy will return to normal for several years.

Will the president continue to hold rallies? Will he set an example by wearing a mask? Will the protests and violence continue? Will other large gatherings continue? Unless Americans make a collective and conscious choice to mask up and social distance, we will be forced to live in a depressed economy for longer than necessary. The choice is up to us.

 

 

 

 

 

Short-term ‘junk’ plans widely discriminate against those with pre-existing conditions, House probe finds

https://www.healthcaredive.com/news/short-term-junk-plans-widely-discriminate-against-those-with-pre-existing/580556/

U.S. Rep. Castor's Statement Following a Federal Judge's Ruling on ...

Dive Brief:

  • A yearlong probe by the House Committee on Energy and Commerce into bare-bones insurance plans encouraged by the Trump administration found widespread discrimination against people with pre-existing conditions, even as a growing number are enrolled.
  • Top congressional Democrats investigated eight insurers selling short-term, limited duration plans, finding they all denied medical care claims if they found a consumer had a pre-existing condition. Some refused to pay for medical claims for no discernable reason, processing them only after consumers sued or complained to state regulators. Most rescinded coverage if they determined a member had a pre-existing condition or developed one later.
  • An HHS spokesperson defended the coverage as an affordable option to pricier Affordable Care Act plans, telling Healthcare Dive, “We’ve been abundantly clear that these plans aren’t for everyone.” America’s Health Insurance Plans made similar points, with spokesperson David Allen noting: “For Americans with pre-existing conditions, they may not be protected at all.”

 

Dive Insight:

The investigation looked at 14 companies that sell or market the plans, including eight insurers such as market giants Anthem and UnitedHealth Group, and six brokers.

It found insurers frequently turned down consumers with pre-existing conditions and discriminated against women, turning down applicants who were pregnant or planning to become pregnant and charging women more than men for the same coverage.

The plans had significant coverage limitations. Some excluded routine care like basic preventive visits and pelvic exams. Some plans had hard coverage cutoffs that left consumers with massive medical bills.

In one case, a consumer was billed a whopping $280,000 and lost coverage after being treated for an infection. The insurer said the patient previously had gotten an ultrasound that was “suspicious for deep venous thrombosis.”

AHIP spokesman Allen said it is not surprising given the plans are not intended to replace comprehensive coverage.

“They often do not cover the care and treatments that patients need throughout the year — preventive care, prescription drugs, mental health care or treatments for chronic health conditions — or if they do, they may limit or cap the benefits,” he acknowledged.

On average, short-term plans spend less than half of premium dollars collected from consumers on medical care: only 48%, the investigation found. That’s in stark contrast to plans in the ACA’s individual market, which are required to shell out at least 80% of all premium dollars on claims and benefits.

Short-term insurance represents a significant and growing share of the individual healthcare market. Roughly 3 million consumers bought the plans in 2019, a 27% growth from 2018, the investigation launched in March last year found.

The growth came after the Trump administration, in a controversial move, extended the maximum duration of the plans. The skimpy coverage, which isn’t required to cover the 10 essential benefits under the ACA, was originally designed as cheap safety net coverage for three months.

But in August 2018, HHS expanded the plans to 12 months, with a three year renewal period, and opened them up to all consumers, not just for those who can’t afford other coverage.

ACA supporters and patient advocates blasted the move, which sparked an ongoing legal challenge from safety net providers. Reports of consumers purchasing the coverage, believing it was comprehensive, then being shocked by balance bills prompted the House investigation.

The report also found brokers are paid up to 10 times more compensation for peddling short-term plans than ACA-compliant coverage. The average commission rate for short-term plans compared to ACA plans was 23% versus 2%, respectively.

Currently, 24 states ban or restrict the sale of short-term plans. Some states, including California, Massachusetts, New Jersey and New York, prohibit their sale entirely, while others like Colorado, Connecticut, New Mexico and Rhode Island have such strict regulations that no plans are sold.

Democratic leaders unveiled a bill on Wednesday to bolster the ACA and rescind the administration’s expansion of the plans and expand subsidies, allowing more people to qualify for coverage.

The effort has zero chance of moving this year with Republicans in control of the Senate, but both it and the probe are likely to play into the looming 2020 presidential and congressional elections.

“The heavy-handed tactics uncovered in this investigation demonstrate why Congress must reverse the Trump Administration’s expansion of these junk plans,” E&C Chairman Frank Pallone, D-N.J., Health Subcommittee Chairwoman Anna Eshoo, D-Calif., and Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Chair Diana DeGette, D-Colo., wrote in a joint statement. “It also shows how dangerous a post-ACA world would be if Republican Attorneys General and the Trump Administration are successful in striking down the law and its protections.”

That lawsuit, led by 18 red states, argues the ACA, which expanded insurance to some 20 million people, is unconstitutional because a tax bill passed in 2017 zeroed out the penalty for its individual mandate. It’s currently pending before the U.S. Supreme Court.

President Donald Trump and his health officials have repeatedly promised people with pre-existing conditions will be protected if the ACA is struck down, but neither the administration nor Republicans in Congress have said specifically how.

 

 

 

 

 

Trinity Health expects $2B revenue plunge as it cuts, furloughs more staff

https://www.healthcaredive.com/news/trinity-health-cutting-cost-cutting-2-billion-revenue-shortfall/580738/

The Dumbest Things You Can Do With Your Money | Work + Money

Dive Brief:

  • Trinity Health, one of the nation’s largest nonprofit health systems, said Monday it will take more measures to cut costs due to the downturn spurred by the novel coronavirus. The restructuring plan includes eliminating positions, extending furloughs, severances and reductions in schedules. The decisions are being “customized” across the system based on factors that include volume projections and the cost and revenue challenges in each market.
  • The Livonia, Michigan-based hospital operator said it continues to treat COVID-19 patients, however, it has “for now seen declining numbers of very sick patients with COVID-19.”
  • The system said it expects revenue to be depressed or “below historical levels” for the remainder of this fiscal year and much of the next. It projects revenue to drop by $2 billion to $17.3 billion for fiscal year 2021, which starts after its June 30 year end.

Dive Insight:

In May, Trinity said it planned to furlough nearly 12% of its workforce — or 15,000 employees out of the 125,000 nationally.  

Trinity, one of the nation’s largest hospital operators with 92 facilities and operations across 22 states, is now broadening that restructuring, extending and adding new furloughs.

In a Monday bond filing, Trinity said its operations were “significantly” impacted by the effects of the pandemic as many operators saw depressed volumes due to shelter-in-place orders, which started in most of Trinity’s markets during the last two weeks of March.

“The effect of COVID-19 on the operating margins and financial results of Trinity Health is adverse and significant and, at this point, the duration of the pandemic and the length of time until Trinity Health returns to normal operations is unknown,” according to Monday’s bond filing.

The system said relief funds provided by the federal government have not been enough to cover its operating losses. Trinity has received $600 million in relief funds that do not have to be repaid and more in loans through the advanced Medicare payment program, according to a previous analysis by Healthcare Dive.

Still, the system said it has drawn on credit facilities totaling $1 billion to provide adequate liquidity during the pandemic. Trinity reported having 178 days cash on hand as of March 30.

Some nonprofits are faring better than Trinity and pulling back on earlier staffing cuts.

Mayo Clinic said last week it will call back its furloughed workers by the end of August and restore pay that had been cut due to the pandemic.

Mayo has some of the most cash on hand in terms of days when comparing other major nonprofit systems. Mayo had 252 days of cash on hand as of March 30, more than the other 20 largest nonprofits except Cleveland Clinic and New York-Presbyterian.

 

 

U.S. Healthcare System vs. Socialized Medicine during the Pandemic

https://www.commondreams.org/news/2020/06/25/why-socialized-system-medicare-all-beats-profit-healthcare-one-chart-covid-19?fbclid=IwAR1qT_AI5KFreoEKOqQfvdWUHPyW80fa2Iefxb5Ul5wJQtf8rSvZXkL8RHM

 

“All countries successfully combatting this virus have robust public health systems, which provide for coordination of effort.”

A recent rise in cases of Covid-19 and the overt failure of the for-profit healthcare system throughout the pandemic in the U.S. are making the case for Medicare for All, advocacy groups and activists say, as countries with socialized systems see their infection rates decline.

“All countries successfully combatting this virus have robust public health systems, which provide for coordination of effort,” remarked a popular healthcare advocate who uses the @AllOnMedicare handle on Twitter.

Calls for the U.S. to adopt a single-payer heathcare system have increased as the pandemic has raged around the country. Cases and deaths in the U.S are now the highest in the world, a result critics blame on both the private healthcare system and the mismanagement of the crisis by President Donald Trump.

Public Citizen’s health care policy advocate Eagan Kemp told Common Dreams that the current for-profit healthcare system that has driven millions of Americans in to bankruptcy and leaves millions more without care will only continue to exacerbate the pain of the outbreak. 

“While no health care system can completely protect a country from Covid-19, the U.S. has failed to respond for a number of reasons, not least of which is a for-profit health care system where Americans are too afraid to go to the doctors for fear of the cost,” said Kemp. “Far too many Americans will face medical debt and even bankruptcy if they are lucky enough to survive getting Covid-19, something unheard of in all other comparably wealth countries.”

As University of Massachusetts professor Dean E. Robinson wrote in a piece that appeared at Common Dreams earlier this month, the coronavirus is impacting people of color at a disproportionate rate in cities and communities nationwide—a dynamic that bolsters the call for a universal Medicare for All program to help close those gaps.

“The obvious and immediate need of Black and other working class populations caught in the teeth of the pandemic is the right to health care treatment without the burden of cost,” wrote Robinson. “Even before the pandemic, lower-income, Latino, and younger workers were more likely to be uninsured. Undocumented workers had the highest rates of uninsurance.”

On June 18, Ralph Nader in an opinion piece for Common Dreams expressed his hope that the ongoing pandemic would make essential workers in the health field “the force that can overcome decades of commercial obstruction to full Medicare for All.”

 

 

 

 

Jobless claims: Another 1.48 million Americans file for unemployment benefits

https://finance.yahoo.com/news/coronavirus-covid-weekly-initial-jobless-claims-june-20-195644738.html

More than three months into the COVID-19 crisis in the U.S., countless Americans are still unemployed. According to the U.S. Labor Department, weekly initial jobless claims data showed yet another week of claims exceeding 1 million.

Another 1.48 million Americans filed for unemployment benefits in the week ending June 20, exceeding economists’ expectations for 1.32 million. The prior week’s figure was revised higher to 1.54 million from the previously reported 1.51 million claims. While this week’s report marked 12 consecutive weeks of deceleration, more than 47 million Americans have filed for unemployment insurance over the past 14 weeks.

“Jobless claims are not falling fast enough,” Renaissance Macro’s Neil Dutta said in an email Thursday. “Everything we have seen in the last week or two between rising case counts/hospitalizations, stalling economic progress in some important states, government job cuts, means one thing: the Phase 4 of fiscal stimulus must be bigger. Things should be better in 3-4 weeks, but the news will get worse before it gets better. Take some chips off the table and reload the chamber for August.”

Continuing claims, which lags initial jobless claims data by one week, totaled 19.52 million in the week ending June 13, down from 20.29 million in the week ending June 6. Consensus expectations were for 20 million continuing claims.

“Initial jobless claims continue to moderate only gradually,” Nomura economist Lewis Alexander wrote in a note Wednesday. “While the labor market remains exceptionally weak, signs of gradual improvement suggest another month of NFP gains during June.”

In the week ending June 20, California reported the highest number of jobless claims at an estimated 287,000 on an unadjusted basis, up from 241,000 in the previous week. Georgia had 124,000, down from 132,000, Florida reported 93,000, New York had roughly 90,000 and Texas reported 89,000 jobless claims.

Additionally, Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program claims, which include those who were previously ineligible for unemployment insurance such as self-employed and contracted workers, was also closely monitored in Thursday’s report.

PUA claims totaled 728,120 on an unadjusted basis in the week ending June 20, down from the prior week’s 770,920.

As states reopen their economies, cases and hospitalization figures are back on the rise. As of Thursday morning, there were more than 9.4 million cases and 483,000 COVID-19 deaths around the world, according to Johns Hopkins University data. The U.S. had 2.3 million cases and 121,000 deaths.

 

 

ACA enrollment up 46%

https://www.axios.com/newsletters/axios-vitals-59e9ac1a-ab86-4f8a-917a-8c9d52f5835f.html?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=newsletter_axiosvitals&stream=top

Obamacare Coverage Spikes After Covid-Related Job Losses

The number of people who lost jobs and related health coverage and then signed up for Affordable Care Act health plans on the federal website was up 46% this year compared with 2019, representing an increase of 154,000 people, the federal government said in a new report.

The bottom line: The government said the rush of people going to HealthCare.gov was tied to “job losses due to COVID-19,” Bob writes.

Yes, but: Medicaid enrollment due to coronavirus-related job losses appears to be growing even faster than enrollment in ACA plans, according to the Georgetown University Health Policy Institute.

Go deeper: Medicaid will be a coronavirus lifeline

 

 

 

 

America’s workers still aren’t protected from the coronavirus

https://www.axios.com/americas-workers-vulnerable-coronavirus-944e3451-4458-4f1d-83d2-c86a1beb1117.html

America's workers still aren't protected from the coronavirus - Axios

Essential workers have borne the brunt of the coronavirus pandemic for months, but the U.S. is still doing relatively little to protect them.

Why it matters: With no end to the pandemic in sight, America’s frontline workers still must choose between risking their health and losing their source of income.

Driving the news: The Trump administration said this week that health insurers aren’t required to cover coronavirus diagnostic tests performed as part of workplace safety or public health surveillance efforts.

  • It didn’t say who is supposed to pay for these tests. If employers are stuck footing the bill, that makes the testing less likely to happen.

The big picture: There’s been no national effort or initiative to protect essential workers, and America is still failing to implement basic public health measures as new cases skyrocket.

  • Masks have become a political flashpoint and aren’t required in many of the states that are emerging coronavirus hotspots.
  • That means essential workers go to work each day without any guarantee that the people they’re interacting with will take one of the most basic and effective steps to prevent transmission of the virus.
  • No one is even talking about mass distribution of personal protective equipment beyond health care workers. And even some health care workers — particularly those who work in nursing homes — don’t have the protective gear that they need.

More broadly, the financial incentives for frontline workers, particularly those who are low-income, to keep working make it nearly impossible for them to avoid health risks.

  • At least 69 million American workers are potentially ineligible for the emergency paid sick leave benefits that Congress passed earlier this year, per the Kaiser Family Foundation.
  • An estimated 25-30 million people — particularly lower-wage workers in service industries — are unable to work from home but also face a high risk of severe infection, KFF’s Drew Altman wrote earlier this week.

What we’re watching: The line between essential workers and those who are required to return to the office by their employer has become blurry, and millions more Americans are facing dilemmas similar to those faced by grocers and bus drivers.

  • The sickest — and thus most vulnerable — Americans may feel the most pressure to return to work, as that’s often where they get their health insurance, the NYT points out.
  • Nearly a quarter of adult workers are vulnerable to severe coronavirus infections, per KFF.

The bottom line: Essential workers and their families will continue to feel the impact of America’s coronavirus failures most acutely.

Go deeper: “Disposable workers” doing essential jobs

 

 

 

 

Credit downgrades aren’t attributable to COVID-19 but cash flow will be a challenge

https://www.healthcarefinancenews.com/news/credit-downgrades-arent-attributable-covid-19-cash-flow-will-be-ongoing-challenge?mkt_tok=eyJpIjoiTUdSbVptVmhaR0ZpT0RJMyIsInQiOiJ2TVwvb3g5VWF4R05DeWFScVJ4U0lXeW9xWG1cL0pVMWo1RE1cL24rd21ySEErbk9kZWNIXC9hdmZYYmJBcGU1RDQ5MDVDNXVyZ2RZSWo2djRRSXhSOVFVQk1yNjFWOTVoVjlkTXVxXC95QXU1SU8yMEhJcEtHZXJ3ZDhDc2RMb2RcLzlMcSJ9

Just How Bad Is My Bad Credit Score? | Credit.com

The coronavirus is mainly affecting the credit outlook for the rest of the year and beyond as hospitals adapt to new financial realities.

While the COVID-19 coronavirus is likely to cause cash flow and liquidity issues for hospitals through the end of the year and into 2021, the credit outlook for the healthcare industry isn’t as dire as some had feared. While there have been some downgrades this year, most of those are attributable to healthcare financial performance at the end of 2019.

At a virtual session of the Healthcare Financial Management Association on Wednesday, Lisa Goldstein, associate managing director at Moody’s Investors Service, said the agency is taking a measured approach to issuing credit ratings and will “triage” these ratings based on factors such as liquidity and cash flow.

“Changes are happening daily, and sometimes hourly with funding coming from the federal government,” said Goldstein, “so we’re taking a very measured approach.”

Healthcare is among the most volatile industries being affected by the coronavirus due to the fact that it operates like a business, with a general lack of government support to pay off debt.

Credit downgrades are on the rise, but there’s historical precedent at play. Looking at data beginning with the 2008 financial crisis, there were consistently more downgrades than upgrades in the healthcare industry, owing to its inherent volatility. It was and has generally been subject to public policy and competitive forces. In any given year, downgrades exceed upgrades.

After passage of the Affordable Care Act, however, the number of uninsured Americans hit an all-time low. Hospitals grew in occupancy and revenues improved. The situation started to worsen once more when it became clear that there was a national nursing shortage, as well as top-line revenue pressure from government and commercial payers lowering their rates, but credit downgrades didn’t truly explode until this year. There have been 24 downgrades so far this year, already exceeding the 13 downgrades in all of 2019.

The rub is that it’s not the coronavirus’s fault.

“Most downgrades were in the first quarter of the year,” said Goldstein. “We did have a lot of downgrades in March, which is when the pandemic really started – when it became a pandemic – but even though there were 11 downgrades in March, it was based on what we’d seen through the end of 2019. There were problems that were appearing that had nothing to do with the pandemic.”

Basic fundamental operating challenges were becoming more pronounced during that time. A decline in inpatient cases, a rapid rise in observation stays, a decline in outpatient cases to competing clinics and health centers, and staffing and productivity challenges all contributed to material increases in debt.

COVID-19’s effects on hospital credit ratings are in the outlook for the rest of the year and beyond. Interestingly, in March, Moody’s changed its outlook from negative to stable.

“We haven’t seen anything like this,” said Goldstein. “The industry has been through shocks, but something this long in duration has been something we think will have an impact on financial performance going forward.”

Moody’s anticipates cash flow will remain low into 2021, mostly from the suspension of elective surgeries, rising staffing expenses and uncertainty around securing enough personal protective equipment. Liquidity is still a concern, but is more of a side issue due to Medicare funding providing a Band-Aid of sorts. The CARES act will help to fill some of that gap, but not all of it, said Goldstein.

She added that the $175 billion in stimulus funding is favorable, but modestly so, since it is estimated to cover only about two months’ worth of spending. The good news is that the opportunity to apply for grant money, which doesn’t have to be repaid, can help to fill some of the gap.

Some hospital leaders are concerned that if they violate covenants – also known as a technical default – their credit outlook will be downgraded. Goldstein sought to assuage those concerns.

“Debt service covenants are expected to rise, but an expected covenant breach or violation won’t have an impact on credit quality because it’s driven by an unusual event happening,” she said. “It doesn’t speak to your fundamental history as an operating entity.”

 

 

White House set to ask Supreme Court this week to overturn ACA: 4 things to know

https://www.beckershospitalreview.com/hospital-management-administration/white-house-to-ask-supreme-court-this-week-to-overturn-aca-4-things-to-know.html?utm_medium=email

New rules for Supreme Court justices as they plan their first-ever ...

The White House is expected to file legal briefs with the Supreme Court this week that will ask the justices to end the ACA, according to The New York Times

Four things to know:

1. The filings are in relation to Texas v. United States, the latest legal challenge to the ACA. Arguments around the case center on whether the ACA’s individual mandate was rendered unconstitutional when the penalty associated with it was erased by the 2017 tax law. Whether that decision invalidates the entire law or only certain parts of it is at question.

2. The White House is set to ask the Supreme Court June 25 to invalidate the law. The filings come at a time when the COVID-19 pandemic has caused millions of Americans to lose their jobs and their employer-based health coverage.

3. Republicans have said they want to “repeal and replace” the ACA, but there is no agreed upon alternative, according to The New York Times. Party strategists told the publication that Republicans will be in a tricky spot if they try to overturn the ACA ahead of the November elections and amid a pandemic. 

4. In addition to the filings, Democratic House speaker Nancy Pelosi is expected to reveal a bill this week that would boost the ACA. Proposals include more subsidies for healthcare premiums, expanding Medicaid coverage for uninsured pregnant women and offering states incentives to expand Medicaid.

Read the full report here

 

 

Re-examining the delivery of high-value care through COVID-19

https://thehill.com/opinion/healthcare/502851-examining-the-delivery-of-high-value-care-through-covid-19#bottom-story-socials

Re-examining the delivery of high-value care through COVID-19 ...

Over the past months, the country and the economy have radically shifted to unchartered territory. Now more than ever, we must reexamine how we spend health care dollars. 

While the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed challenges with health care in America, we see two overarching opportunities for change:

1) the under-delivery of evidence-based care that materially improves the lives and well-being of Americans and

2) the over-delivery of unnecessary and, sometimes, harmful care.

The implications of reallocating our health care spending to high-value services are far-ranging, from improving health to economic recovery. 

To prepare for coronavirus patients and preserve protective equipment, clinicians and hospitals across the country halted non-urgent visits and procedures. This has led to a substantial reduction in high-value care: emergency care for strokes or heart attacks, childhood vaccinations, and routine chronic disease management. However, one silver lining to this near shutdown is that a similarly dramatic reduction in the use of low-value services has also ensued.

As offices and hospitals re-open, we have a once in a century opportunity to align incentives for providers and consumers, so patients get more high-value services in high-value settings, while minimizing the resurgence of low-value care. For example, the use of pre-operative testing in low-risk patients should not accompany the return of elective procedures such as cataract removal. Conversely, benefit designs should permanently remove barriers to high-value settings and services, like patients receiving dialysis at home or phone calls with mental health providers.   

People with low incomes and multiple chronic conditions are of particular concern as unemployment rises and more Americans lose their health care coverage. Suboptimal access and affordability to high-value chronic disease care prior to the COVID-19 pandemic was well documented  As financially distressed providers re-open to a new normal, hopeful to regain their financial footing, highly profitable services are likely to be prioritized.

Unfortunately, clinical impact and profitability are frequently not linked. The post-COVID reopening should build on existing quality-driven payment models and increase reimbursement for high-value care to ensure that compensation better aligns with patient-centered outcomes.

At the same time, the dramatic fall in “non-essential care” included a significant reduction in services that we know to be harmful or useless. Billions are spent annually in the US on routinely delivered care that does not improve health; a recent study from 4 states reports that patients pay a substantial proportion (>10 percent) of this tab out-of-pocket. This type of low-value care can lead to direct harm to patients — physically or financially or both — as well as cascading iatrogenic harm, which can amplify the total cost of just one low-value service by up to 10 fold. Health care leaders, through the Smarter Health Care Coalition, have hence called on the Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Azar to halt Medicare payments for services deemed low-value or harmful by the USPSTF. 

As offices and hospitals reopen with unprecedented clinical unmet needs, we have a unique opportunity to rebuild a flawed system. Payment policies should drive incentives to improve individual and population health, not the volume of services delivered. We emphasize that no given service is inherently high- or low-value, but that it depends heavily on the individual context. Thus, the implementation of new financial incentives for providers and patients needs to be nuanced and flexible to allow for patient-level variability. The added expenditures required for higher reimbursement rates for highly valuable services can be fully paid for by reducing the use of and reimbursement for low-value services.  

The delivery of evidence-based care should be the foundation of the new normal. We all agree that there is more than enough money in U.S. health care; it’s time that we start spending it on services that will make us a healthier nation.