Effects of the Pandemic on U.S. Healthcare

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U.S. healthcare claims dipped considerably and universally in 2020. What are the lingering effects of the pandemic on human behaviors and healthcare providers across towns and cities?

National health studies have shown depression rates amid COVID-19 stressors tripling among U.S. adults in all demographic groups, with more than 42% of CDC survey respondents expressing anxiety or depression symptoms in December 2020, a percentage up 200% from 2019 numbers. This points to an ongoing and widespread crisis set to have deep individual and societal implications, but the data related to claims for mental and behavioral health in the pandemic doesn’t presently match the severity of noted impact.

This is likely to have long-term effects for healthcare as populations become more aware of the impacts the pandemic has had on them and realize the need to seek help and support, provided household incomes have stabilized following the sharp economic shock of the recession. 

The following analysis looks at the annual change in both Medicare and commercial insurance claims between 2019 and 2020.

What do mental and behavioral health claims tell us so far?
On average, Medicare and commercial insurance claims decreased by 25.8% from 2019 to 2020, not an insignificant amount considering healthcare comprises 11.0% of the U.S. GDP, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis.

Despite the physical, emotional, and mental stresses of the health crisis and quarantine period, the U.S. mental & behavioral claims decreased by 20.7% year-over-year, effectually matching the yearly change in infectious disease claims. While these were two of the three least affected types of insurance claims, these results were nonetheless surprising, and representative of the temporary, pandemic-related headwinds encountered by the healthcare industry.

Narrowing down the claims by population, fewer mental health claims were lost in rural areas with populations under 500,000, decreasing by 18.9% from 2019 to 2020. This underscores that the stresses brought on by the coronavirus pandemic were even more acute in more isolated geographies.

Where do visits to healthcare facilities in general stand?
Patients were less likely to visit hospitals (-29.3%) partly due to the perceived risk of a COVID-19 infection and pandemic-related limitations. Instead, patients chose less populated urgent care clinics and other types of facilities, regardless of the scale of the metropolitan area. This is believed to be a temporary phenomenon as infection rates wane and restrictions are lifted, permitting the rate of elective procedures to increase.

How can we keep an eye on these statistics as vaccinations increase, infections decrease and towns and cities reopen?
As we come to a close on Mental Health Awareness Month in the U.S. we are further reminded of the importance of taking care of ourselves and our loved ones and the risks that can come with leaving poor mental health and wellness unchecked for too long. This has implications for people individually and collectively and poses questions for the healthcare sector. How will the rebound in demand for non-critical care impact facility needs in fields like physical therapy, orthopedics and radiology, among others? How will the yearly shift from hospital campuses to outpatient and retail-based facilities impact investment in outpatient care locations, life sciences labs, and manufacturing facilities? How will employers incorporate wellness into workplace strategies?

Check out our interactive dashboard at any time to see the latest real-time claim data and click on any claim type, facility type, or metro area size to analyze the evolving state of the healthcare sector.

This dashboard leverages Avison Young’s data-based analytics platform, AVANT by Avison Young, in partnership with Definitive Healthcare. AVANT makes data more accessible and understandable, allowing clients to make informed, strategic decisions and realize the full potential of their real estate.

Insight and innovation contacts

Craig Leibowitz

    • Executive Director, Innovation and Insight Advisory, U.S.
[email protected]

Olivier Maene

    • Global Practice Lead, Innovation - Analytics
[email protected]