We don’t need to tell you how badly patient volumes suffered for a good stretch of the pandemic. Patients stayed away not just from urgent care centers, but all ambulatory care settings. The advent of vaccines and wider availability of testing supplies started to right the ship, but concerns have remained that “normal” visits—those for complaints unrelated to COVID-19—might take a while to return to pre-pandemic levels. An article just published by the Journal of the American Medical Association may shed some light on these concerns, though. The retrospective cohort study of more than 14.5 million patients found an overall increase in return to “expected rates” in emergency rooms, office and urgent care practices, behavioral health, screening colonoscopies, screening mammograms, and contraception counseling or HIV screening between March 2020 and February 2021. The increase was significantly lower in patients covered by Medicaid or with dual Medicaid–Medicare eligibility and those in commercial, Medicare Advantage, or Medicare fee-for-service plans. While this is good news—insofar as anything can be considered “good” when it comes to COVID-19—the authors acknowledge that “it remains unclear whether care consistently returned to expected rates across insurance types and services.”

The Pandemic Rebound Is Real—Though the Extent Varies by Payer
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