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Health care industry decimated by coronavirus, loses 1.4 million jobs

Health care industry decimated by coronavirus, loses 1.4 million jobs
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The health care industry lost 1.4 million jobs in April, even as health workers were dealing with the coronavirus pandemic in hospitals, nursing homes and intensive care units across the country.

The number of people without jobs is shocking, especially for a sector that has historically been largely resilient during recessions. 

The April numbers follow a loss of 43,000 health care jobs in March.

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According to figures from the Labor Department, the hardest-hit areas have been outpatient facilities. More than half a million dental office employees alone lost a job in April, as offices shut down due to physical distancing measures. Physicians' offices lost more than 240,000 jobs. 

One goal of the shutdowns was to mitigate the impact of the virus, as much as possible, on hospitals and to preserve limited supplies of personal protective equipment.  

Health facilities across the country paused almost all nonessential services in the last month, shutting off a key source of revenue. But even workers caring for patients whose care could not be delayed lost their jobs.

Diagnostic labs lost 31,000 jobs, even as the country has struggled to increase the number of coronavirus tests available.

Hospitals lost 135,000 workers, as health systems across the country faced millions of dollars in losses due to the pandemic. 

The American Hospital Association recently estimated that U.S. hospitals and health systems would end up losing $200 billion from March 1 through the end of June. The group said $160 billion of that will be attributed to lost revenue from postponed or canceled elective procedures. 

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Experts say the dramatic loss of revenue could have been prevented if the U.S. had a different way of paying for care. The current system is mostly volume-based, on a per-procedure basis. Once the volume dropped, revenue did too.

Congress has allocated $175 billion to help providers impacted by the coronavirus pandemic, but it's not clear whether the money will be able to save more jobs in the months ahead. 

Lawmakers have also raised concerns about unequal distribution of funds, and about transparency in how hospitals and other providers can use the funding.