At the end of May, the health care sector found itself in a weird situation.
An industry that has been one of the major drivers of job growth over the past decade has seen precipitous declines related to the coronavirus pandemic. Hospitals have lost revenue as Americans have been reluctant to go into medical facilities; insurers have experienced a strange windfall, largely thanks to the complicated nature of U.S. health care.
But the situation seems to be changing as states and locales begin to reopen businesses. And, weirdly enough, the dentistry business seems to be leading the way for the resurgence.
For context: “Across all health care services, which do not include pharmaceutical drugs, [health care] expenditures were down 12% in March 2020 relative to last year, with particularly sharp drops in expenditures on dental services (–27%) and medical laboratories (–28%),” reads a report published about health care spending by the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation.
The latest jobs report from the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) paints a picture of how things are changing.
Nuances abound here given the strange times and questions about methodology. But the federal government’s numbers indicate that the gradual reopening of health care businesses, especially for dental services, is driving a major increase in the numbers.
“Health care employment increased by 312,000 over the month, with gains in offices of dentists (+245,000), offices of other health practitioners (+73,000), and offices of physicians (+51,000),” wrote the BLS in its latest update. “Elsewhere in health care, job losses continued in nursing and residential care facilities (–37,000) and hospitals (–27,000).”
The decline for hospitals and residential nursing homes may not be surprising given that many people are nervous about physically going to a large medical facility of any kind in the midst of a pandemic.
On the flip side, urgent-care centers appear to be attracting more patients as cities begin their reopening processes.
What’s less clear is the long-term effect the pandemic will have on the industry at large. Health care is a strange collection of interdependent yet combative entities—the current situation appears to be exposing its rifts.
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