Thousands of Doctors’ Offices Buckle Under Financial Stress of COVID

December 15, 2020 by Christen Aldrich

Filed under COVID-19 for Employers, COVID-19 for the Workforce

Last modified December 22, 2020

This article by Kaiser Health News discusses medical closures and how the pandemic is hurting practices financially. Although no one tracks medical closures, recent research suggests they number in the thousands. A survey by the Physicians Foundation estimated that 8% of all physician practices nationally — around 16,000 — have closed under the stress of the pandemic. 

“The last few years have been difficult for primary care practices, especially independent ones,” said Dr. Karen Joynt Maddox, co-director of the Center for Health Economics and Policy at Washington University in St. Louis. “Putting on top of that COVID, that’s in many cases the proverbial straw. These practices are not operating with huge margins. They’re just getting by.”

Experts say when offices close, the biggest losers are patients, who may skip preventive care or regular appointments that help keep chronic diseases such as diabetes under control. “This is especially poignant in the rural areas. There aren’t any good choices. What happens is people end up getting care in the emergency room,” said Dr. Michael LeFevre, head of the family and community medicine department at the University of Missouri and a practicing physician in Columbia. “If anything, what this pandemic has done is put a big spotlight on what was already a big crack in our health care system.”

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