The Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic and Policy Response on Health Care Utilization: Evidence from County-level Medical Claims and Cellphone data
The COVID-19 pandemic has forced federal, state and local policymakers to respond by legislating, enacting, and enforcing social distancing policies. However, the impact of these policies on healthcare utilization in the United States has been largely unexplored. We examine the impact of county-level shelter in place ordinances on healthcare utilization using two unique datasets—employer-sponsored insurance for over 6 million people in the US and cell phone location data. We find that introduction of these policies was associated with reductions in the use of preventive care, elective care, and the number of weekly visits to physician offices and hospitals. However, controlling for county-level exposure to the COVID-19 pandemic reduces the impact of these policies. Our results imply that while social distancing policies do lead to reductions in healthcare utilization, much of these reductions would have occurred even in the absence of these policies.
The views expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Bureau of Economic Research.