Health-Care Spending Plummets
Health Care

Health-Care Spending Plummets

Shannon Fagan / GraphicStock

The coronavirus pandemic is wreaking havoc on the American health care system, pushing hospitals and providers to their limits amid the worst medical crisis in a century. And it’s having a powerful effect on the system as a whole, not just the emergency rooms and intensive care units that are dealing most directly with the virus. Patients are canceling or postponing surgeries, skipping the dentist and taking whatever steps they can to avoid the health care system. As a result, the health care industry is collapsing in on itself.

In the first three months of 2020, health-care spending fell at an annualized rate of 18%, The Washington Post’s Todd C. Frankel and Tony Romm report Monday. The decline was the largest single factor in the 4.8% annualized decline in GDP for the first quarter. Economists expect much worse numbers in the current quarter, with GDP falling at an annual rate of 30% to 40%.

Vivian Ho, a health economist and professor at Rice University, told the Post that some health systems are reporting 50% or greater losses in revenue, resulting in furloughs and pay cuts. “And while I think they’re going to rebound, it will be slow and won’t go back to what it was before,” she said.