Monday, 28 Sep 2020

Missed Vaccines, Skipped Colonoscopies: Preventive Care Plummets

Nonurgent medical procedures have seemed worth postponing in a pandemic. This could pose long-term risks, health officials fear.

By Sarah Kliff

When the coronavirus pandemic hit, Americans vastly scaled back their preventive health care, and there is little sign that this deferred care will be made up.

Vaccinations dropped by nearly 60 percent in April, and almost no one was getting a colonoscopy, according to new data from the nonprofit Health Care Cost Institute.

The data, drawn from millions of health insurance claims, shows a consistent pattern, whether it was prostate screenings or contraceptives: Preventive care declined drastically this spring and, as of late June, had not yet recovered to normal levels. Many types of such care were still down by a third at the start of this summer, the most recent data available shows, as Americans remained wary of visiting hospitals and medical offices.

“The thing that jumped out at me was how similar all the patterns were,” said Niall Brennan, the institute’s president. “The bottom was deeper for some services than others, but the slope of the lines was pretty similar no matter what service you picked.”

Americans continued seeking care they couldn’t avoid — hospital admissions for childbirth, for example, held steady — but avoided care they could put off. More invasive preventive procedures, such as mammograms and colonoscopies, showed the greatest decline.

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