NBER Working Paper No. 27173
Issued in May 2020
There is growing concern that the COVID-19 pandemic may have severe, adverse effects on the health care sector, a sector of the economy that historically has been somewhat shielded from the business cycle. In this paper, we study one aspect of this issue by estimating the magnitude of the COVID-19 pandemic on use of outpatient health services. We use 2010-2020 data from the Outpatient Influenza-like Illness Surveillance Network (ILINet). Our findings indicate that the COVID-19 pandemic is associated with about a 67 percent decline in the total number of outpatient visits per provider by the week of April 12-18th, 2020 relative to the same week in prior years. Effects become apparent earlier in the pandemic for outpatient visits for non-flu symptoms, but we find negative effects on outpatient visits for flu symptoms as well.