Health Care Sector Sees Dramatic Drop in Spending in April

An analysis published by the consulting firm Altarum found that national spending on health care services was down 24% in April 2020 compared to the same month in 2019. The report was based on spending data from the U.S. Department of Commerce and national health expenditure data from the federal government. The health care industry has faced financial strains caused by a rapid decline in elective procedures and routine patient visits due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Health spending made up a 15.7% share of April’s gross domestic product, falling from a trend of approximately 18% over the past 4 years, according to the report. The drop is steeper than what has been seen in the overall economy.

$746 billion was spent on hospital care in April, compared with $1.25 trillion in the same month in 2019. Physician spending also decreased, to $442 billion compared with $748 billion in 2019 – the lowest level since November 2006. Spending on dental services dropped dramatically, falling from $137 billion in April 2019 to $54 billion in April 2020, representing the steepest decline for the industry since July 1998.

Comparatively, prescription drug spending increased in April, to $373 billion nationally compared with $355 billion in 2019, although that number is down from March 2020. The analysis suggests that March prescription spending was higher due to patients stocking up in preparation for stay-at-home orders.

Nursing home spending remained stable over this period, garnering $189 billion in April compared to $177 billion in 2019.

Sources: Fierce Healthcare, June 15, 2020; Altarum Newsroom, April 30, 2020.