Recovery more robust for home health than nursing homes: health spending brief

Health spending in September accounted for approximately 17.4% of the nation’s gross national product. Nursing home and home healthcare represented 1.3% of that 17.4%. Those numbers are according to Altarum’s monthly Health Sector Economic Indicators brief released Friday.

“Home health was hit harder early in the pandemic than nursing homes but recovered a little more quickly,” George Miller, PhD, institute fellow at Altarum, told the McKnight’s Business Daily Friday. “Both nursing home care and home healthcare are now above what they were before the pandemic in terms of spending.”

Home healthcare spending now is 13.7% above what it was in January 2020, he said. Nursing home spending, by contrast, is 5% higher than it was in January 2020.

“That suggests that recovery has been more robust for home healthcare than nursing home care,” Miller said.

Healthcare job growth remained strong in October, with 52,600 jobs added. Healthcare has averaged 47,000 new jobs per month in 2022, according to the HSEI. Most of that growth came in ambulatory care, which Miller said includes home healthcare. That sector added 30,700 jobs in October. Nursing and residential care added 11,100 jobs.

“Nursing care [staffing] is still well below where it was at the start of the pandemic,” Miller said. “The growth in both [nursing homes and home care staffing] has been relatively modest.”

Wages have moderated in terms of earnings, according to Miller. Wage growth declined across healthcare settings, according to the data. Residential care wages grew at 7.7% compared with a peak of 11% in March, whereas ambulatory care wages grew by 4.6% compared with a peak of 5.8% in July.