The nation has gotten some long-desired, important health care economic news: The country has “bent the cost curve,” seeing 2020 as the first year in at least six decades in which America’s health care spending went down. But this may not be a good thing.
As Drew Altman, president and chief executive officer of the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF), reported of his organization’s economic data:
“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. Adding spending for drugs, which are less affected by Covid-19 and have not fallen, total health spending is still down by about 0.5% from last year. At its low point in April when the pandemic first really hit, spending on health services had fallen an eye popping 32% on an annualized basis. This is the first time expenditures for patient care have fallen year-over-year since data became available in the 1960s. The largest drop-offs were in outpatient care as people put off elective services or [visits to] doctors’ offices and outpatient clinics shut down. Telehealth visits increased dramatically but did not make up all of the difference.”