Hospitals struggling to care for sick, stay afloat

The coronavirus pandemic has put the U.S. health system under tremendous strain—and hospitals that care for the poor and vulnerable are facing the most pressure, say experts.

A December 16, 2020 New York Times article outlined the health system challenges that the incoming Biden administration will have to contend with. The article noted that 2020 is on track to be the first year in decades when U.S. health care spending goes down. Experts quoted in the article explained what hospitals are up against—trying to care for a population made sicker both by the coronavirus and missed preventive care while dealing with income lost due to canceled elective procedures.

Safety-net health systems—those that typically care for vulnerable populations regardless of their ability to pay—may face particularly tough choices. The article noted that Trump administration efforts to undercut the Affordable Care Act and restrict Medicaid enrollment have disproportionately harmed those hospitals, and some of them may have to think about closing or selling.

“The health care system lost a ton of money when people didn’t show up in March and April,” said health economist David Cutler, professor in the Department of Global Health and Population at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. “It’s not clear it’s going to get that money back. I fully expect we’ll see a wave of providers go under, demand higher prices, and demand bailouts.”

Read the New York Times article: This Is the Health System That Biden Inherits From Trump