Report: Primary care spending dropped in 2019

Primary care spending has been trending down steadily for years.

The country’s investment in primary care continues to drop.

A new report from the Primary Care Collaborative (PCC) looked at U.S. investment as measured by spending and found that it is low and has steadily declined from 2017 to 2019 nationally as well as in a majority of states.

According to a news release on the report the findings, while derived from pre-COVID-19 data, are relevant to the current pandemic which has seen primary care practices suffering financial losses due to delayed care and low patient volume. The report is also based exclusively on commercial insurer information.

The authors found that national primary care spending in 2019 made up only 4.67 percent of national commercial healthcare spending a fall from 4.88 percent in 2017. This number varied across states with Kentucky, the lowest, spending 3.14 percent of commercial healthcare spending on primary care, while Michigan, the highest, spent 9.48 percent when using a narrow definition of primary care. When using a broad definition, Mississippi ranked at the top with 16.64 percent and Pennsylvania came in last with 5.57 percent, the release says.

While primary care spending may seem a bit higher in some states, the report says that the majority of states have seen their spending fall over the last few years. The negative trend across primary care was observed in 39 states when using the narrow definition of primary care and in 30 states when using the broad definition, according to the release.

“This study and others have shown that, unfortunately, the U.S. is moving away from primary care, despite the evidence that it is associated with better value, including enhanced population health, greater equity, and more efficient use of healthcare resources,” Darilyn Moyer, MD, chair of the PCC’s board of directors, and executive vice president and CEO of the American College of Physicians, says in the release. “This report highlights to what extent our health system is oriented toward primary care by looking at one of the indicators of it—spending on it."

The executive summary of the report can be found here.