Primary Care Practice Finances In The United States Amid The COVID-19 Pandemic
Primary Care Practice Finances In The United States Amid The COVID-19 Pandemic.
Department of Public Health, California State University, Sacramento
PUBH 151: Introduction to U.S. Healthcare System
Dr. Charl Mattheus
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D. Rosenberg, K., & Metz, S. (2020). Will voters support higher taxes to fund universal health care? Oregon, 2019. Journal of General Internal Medicine, 35(10), 3120–3121. doi:10.2105/ajph.2015.302611
Mattheus, C. (2020). Understanding the United States health care system. Dubuque, IA: Great River Learning.
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The COVID-19 pandemic has significantly impacted primary care practices in the United States, leading to financial struggles for many healthcare providers. This paper aims to explore the financial challenges faced by primary care practices during the pandemic, including the decrease in patient visits, the shift to telehealth, and the increased costs associated with implementing safety measures. Additionally, the paper will examine the federal government’s response to these challenges, including the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act and the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021. Understanding the financial impact of the pandemic on primary care practices is crucial in developing effective policies to support healthcare providers and ensure access to quality healthcare for patients.
The United States healthcare system has been significantly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The virus has led to increased healthcare costs, decreased patient volumes, and changes in the delivery of healthcare services. The primary care sector, in particular, has faced significant financial challenges as a result of the pandemic. Primary care practices have seen a reduction in patient visits, leading to a decline in revenue. Additionally, many practices have had to implement safety measures to prevent the spread of the virus, which has increased costs. This paper aims to examine the financial challenges faced by primary care practices during the COVID-19 pandemic and the government’s response to support these providers.
Decrease in Patient Visits
The COVID-19 pandemic has led to a significant decrease in patient visits to primary care practices. According to a survey conducted by the Primary Care Collaborative, primary care visits declined by nearly 50% in the early months of the pandemic (Friedberg et al., 2020). Patients were hesitant to seek medical care due to fear of contracting the virus or because they were following stay-at-home orders. The decrease in patient visits has resulted in a decline in revenue for primary care practices. Additionally, the decline in preventive care visits may lead to long-term health consequences for patients.
Shift to Telehealth
To continue providing care during the pandemic, many primary care practices shifted to telehealth services. Telehealth allows providers to offer virtual visits to patients, reducing the risk of exposure to the virus. While telehealth has provided a way for practices to continue offering care, it has also led to financial challenges. Telehealth visits are often reimbursed at a lower rate than in-person visits, and some payers do not cover telehealth visits at all (Mehrotra et al., 2021). This has resulted in a decrease in revenue for some primary care practices, as they are unable to bill for the same level of services provided in an in-person visit.
Primary care practices have also faced increased costs associated with implementing safety measures during the pandemic. Providers have had to purchase personal protective equipment (PPE) and implement additional cleaning protocols to prevent the spread of the virus. According to a survey conducted by the Medical Group Management Association, primary care practices reported a 57% increase in PPE expenses from February to April 2020 (MGMA, 2020). Additionally, practices have had to implement technology solutions to support telehealth services, such as video conferencing software, which can be costly.
Federal Government Response
The federal government has responded to the financial challenges faced by primary care practices during the pandemic. The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, passed in March 2020, allocated $175 billion in relief funds to healthcare providers, including primary care practices (CMS, 2021). These funds were intended to help providers cover the costs associated with the pandemic, such as PPE and technology expenses. Additionally, the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, signed into