While many experts claim that we have “flattened the curve” and have avoided overwhelming the U.S. healthcare system with COVID-19 patients, we see of another alarming trend. The U.S. healthcare system is suffering a historic collapse that threatens jobs, healthcare delivery, and the economy as a whole.
A new article every day seems to highlight the loss of jobs in the healthcare sector. A recent headline in the New York Times stated that healthcare workers had lost 1.4 million jobs due to the pandemic, and this number is increasing at a steady rate. Furloughs, layoffs, and reductions in staff seem to headline all of the healthcare-related news feeds.
Hospitals, clinics, and other healthcare delivery settings have seen unprecedented declines in volumes and revenue as a result of mandates, self-rationing of care, and general fear of the virus. The downstream effects of this pandemic and shutdown to the overall health of our nation, as described in a letter signed by over 600 doctors to President Trump, will have potential consequences for generations in the form of “financial instability, unemployment, despair, drug addiction, unplanned pregnancies, poverty, and abuse.” Also, the financial distress on hospitals and healthcare systems that already operated on low margins will most likely lead to more hospital closures and consolidation within the industry.
The Commerce Department has recently released data that shows that healthcare spending has declined at an annualized rate of 18 percent during the first quarter of 2020, which is the most substantial reduction since the government started keeping records in 1959. This decrease has proved to be the most significant factor in driving a 4.8 percent decline in GDP since the Great Depression. To make matters worse, Morgan Stanley is predicting a record 37.9 percent drop in GDP in the second quarter of 2020. The healthcare industry is vital to not only saving lives but also crucial to economic recovery.
It seems that the once protected healthcare industry has succumbed to the invisible hands of a virus. Healthcare has typically been the engine that stabilizes the economy, but during this pandemic, the financial drivers in healthcare have come to a halt. Jobs are in decline, the health of our nation is looking at many unintended consequences, and our economy is struggling mightily to keep from fully crashing.
Not to make light of a dire situation, but it’s time to “flatten the curve” of these disturbing trends in the healthcare sector. Determining how to do that is the next big question, and the answer must not be politically motivated.