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Healthcare consumption trends during the pandemic

Healthcare consumption trends during the pandemic

The pandemic had a significant impact on healthcare businesses and healthcare consumption.    With full 2020 data now reported, we can assess the trends and what they may indicate going forward:

  • For the full year of 2020, health insurers experienced a reduction in healthcare consumption of about 2-3% compared to 2019.  I think it is reasonable to assume healthcare consumption other than COVID declined by about 5-6% for the year, offset in part by the increased healthcare consumption from COVID. 
  • Healthcare which contains either (a) an elective element, or (b) a low short-term impact of deferral of care, suffered the most in 2020.  Dental was the area with the biggest decline.  Outpatient procedures, especially those related to screening were also down significantly – 10-15% lower in 2020 than 2019.  Emergency department visits were also way off normal levels, down 15%+ in 2020.  The healthcare categories which fared the best in 2020, with overall spending increases, were pharmacy and home health.
  • Looking at healthcare spend by quarter shows the second quarter was the worst, not surprisingly.
    • Q2 – health claims down 13% vs 2019
    • Q3 – health claims down 1% vs 2019
    • Q4 – health claims up 2% vs 2019
  • Q1 2021 should be fairly normalized.
  • Social and emotional wellness continue to be big challenges to Americans, in many cases more significant than physical wellness.
  • Two-thirds of Americans report working from home in 2020 all of the time or some of the time.  Much of this will continue at least through first half of 2021 if not permanently.
  • There is some evidence already of a longer term shift away from nursing home/long-term care and toward home health services. 

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