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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The coronavirus pandemic will likely reduce total U.S. health care spending — at least for a while.

The big picture: The pandemic is a health care crisis, but it's costing less than the other, routine care that's been postponed because of it.

By the numbers: Before the pandemic hit, the U.S. was projected to spend $4 trillion this year on health care, due in large part to the continued rise of prices.

  • A new Kaiser Family Foundation report and a new Health Affairs post by Richard Kronick, a former federal health policy researcher, indicate the pandemic may not increase spending and could lower spending below the $4 trillion projection.

Between the lines: Far fewer people went to their doctors and hospitals in March and April, according to KFF.

  • Health insurance companies have confirmed they are sitting on a lot of cash because medical providers aren't billing for as many services, drugs and equipment.
  • COVID-19 hospitalizations are so far tracking below expectations, but that could change "if we are individually and collectively extremely stupid" about reopening the economy, Kronick wrote.

The wild card: How quickly patients come back.

  • J.P. Morgan's May Proprietary Hospital Survey of 316 hospitals showed "significant improvement" in hospital revenues during the first two weeks of May, indicating some services are rebounding.
  • Congress also has subsidized the health care industry with $175 billion, or 5% of health care spending, in a bid to keep things normal.
  • "It is not yet clear how these upward and downward cost pressures will balance out in 2020 and 2021," KFF's researchers wrote.

What we're watching: Private insurers are setting premiums for next year, and states are looking at Medicaid budgets. Understanding how the pandemic is affecting the health spending influences how much everyone will pay in premiums and taxes going forward.

Go deeper

Updated Aug 29, 2020 - Health

University of Alabama reports 1,052 COVID-19 cases since in-person classes began

Photo: Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

The University of Alabama on Friday reported an additional 485 confirmed cases of COVID-19 among students, faculty and staff since in-person classes resumed on Aug. 19, bringing the total number cases up to 1,052, according to the university's coronavirus dashboard.

Why it matters: The outbreak underscores concerns from public health experts that in-person classes could cause community spread within school populations. The total reported on Friday does not include the 381 positive tests caught when students, faculty and staff first re-entered campus.

2 TikTok stars charged for L.A. "mega-parties"

Bryce Hall and Blake Gray in Los Angeles, California. Photo: fupp/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images

TikTok influencers Blake Gray and Bryce Hall face criminal charges for hosting "mega-parties" in the Hollywood Hills despite a city ban on large gatherings due to the coronavirus pandemic, authorities announced on Friday.

Why it matters: Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer described the charges as a part of a "crackdown" on house parties that pose a risk to public health.