A Mid-Year Update on 2023 Healthcare Trends

By Courtney Burke

In January 2023, the Rockefeller Institute published a three-part blog series on trends to watch in healthcare in 2023. The series covered broad issues related to the healthcare workforce, economy, and health policy, and highlighted internal industry changes and trends in service delivery, quality, and equity. Here, we provide a recap and mid-year update on those trends.

  1. The Public Health Emergency

    In January, we anticipated the COVID-19 federal public health emergency (PHE) would end at some point during the year and its ending would impact the industry by rolling back flexibilities and programs that were temporarily put in place to combat the pandemic. The end of the PHE, while not a “trend” per se, held significant potential to alter the trajectory of trends in healthcare coverage, access, and care delivery that were occurring during the pandemic.

    Mid-year Update: As predicted, the PHE was not renewed and ended on May 11, 2023. The most notable impact of the non-renewal of the PHE was the end of continuous Medicaid public health insurance coverage. The Kaiser Family Foundation’s Medicaid Enrollment Tracker shows that, as of July 5, 2023, 1,652,000 Medicaid enrollees were disenrolled by the District of Columbia and 28 states reporting data. For context, this means that 39% of people with a completed renewal were disenrolled in reporting states, though disenrollment rates varied significantly across those states from 16 percent in Virginia to 75 percent in South Carolina. The eligibility redetermination process that can lead to a potential disenrollment is being conducted differently in each state with some states moving quickly to make redeterminations and others doing the process more deliberately over the course of the year with a clear intent to avoid shedding people from the Medicaid program because of an inability to submit administrative paperwork. The process for eligibility renewals will continue to play out over the course of the next year since states have until mid-2024 to update all Medicaid enrollees’ eligibility status. Also notable are some changes made under the purview of the PHE that persist despite the emergency’s conclusion. For example, access to COVID-19 vaccinations and certain COVID-19 treatments generally have not been affected. Some telehealth flexibilities that were allowed under the PHE are also staying in effect, at least until the end of 2024.

  2. Healthcare Workforce Shortages

    Prior to the pandemic, larger demographic trends in society were already impacting the supply of the healthcare workforce. The number of people aging and needing healthcare services was growing while the number of people available to provide care was not keeping pace thus creating a long-term healthcare workforce shortage.

    Mid-year Update: The workforce shortage continues. As outlined in a May 23rd Becker’s Hospital Review article, several sources point to a continued shortage. They include a report that says the US could see a deficit of 200,000 to 450,000 registered nurses by 2025. Within the next five years, another report also projects a shortage of more than 3.2 million lower-wage healthcare workers, such as medical assistants, home health aides, and nursing assistants. As a result, some healthcare providers are becoming more creative in their efforts to counteract the workforce shortage: creating alumni networks from which to recruit or providing other benefits to their workforce, such as housing or educational assistance. Policymakers can help counteract the negative impacts of the workforce shortage through a variety of strategies. With the shortage expected to continue, it will be important to enact additional policies that bolster the workforce.

  3. Price Inflation

    As we noted, price inflation was significant in 2022 but was not unique to the health sector. Inflation was particularly exacerbated by the re-opening of the economy after the pandemic, the continued war in Ukraine, and supply chain challenges.

    Mid-year Update: Prices for many consumer goods and services increased faster than usual, with overall inflation reaching a four-decade high in mid-2022. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported inflation rates have slowed, with overall prices growing by 6 percent in February 2023 compared to the previous year. Interestingly, prices for medical care increased only 2.3 percent. Similarly, BLS reported that the average price of health care in the United States increased by 0.7 percent in the 12 months ending May 2023, following a previous increase of 1.1 percent. The slower price growth in healthcare compared to other sectors of the economy is highly unusual,[i] and while inflation is not easily influenced by state-level policymakers’ actions alone, the trend is still worth monitoring to better understand the impacts on healthcare access and quality. As of early July, the latest predictions from PwC are that healthcare costs will rise 7% in 2024.

  4. Declining Margins at Hospitals

    Previous analysis by the consulting firm Kaufman Hall predicted that more than half of all hospitals would have negative margins at the end of 2022. As we noted, this was due to such factors as higher-than-normal expenses for staff, supplies, and pharmaceuticals and lower revenues.

    Mid-year Update: The latest report from Kaufman Hall offers data that shows a reversal in this trend for the first part of 2023. May was the third consecutive month in which hospital margins were positive after operating in the red for most of 2022. The return to normal is largely driven by revenues that are more in line with pre-pandemic levels. With revenues returning to more normal levels, expenses will be particularly important to watch for the remainder of 2023. If hospital expenses continue to outweigh revenues, policymakers may need to evaluate the financial health of providers and the potential impact that may have on access to services for patients.

  5. Private Equity in Healthcare

    We predicted that private equity (PE) would continue to grow in healthcare, pointing to a PwC consulting report that indicated that PE companies still had plenty of “dry powder,” or money, to invest in 2023.

    Mid-year Update: There has been a slowdown in private equity deals over the last year. But it is notable that there were still 200 private equity deals in healthcare in the first quarter of 2023, according to PitchBook’s healthcare services report released in May 2023. While lower than the year before, this is still considered active when compared to pre-pandemic PE dealmaking. Because of the waning of the pandemic and stability returning to the healthcare sector, it is more likely that PE deals stabilize in 2023. And some industry predictions indicate that dealmaking will bounce back further in the second half of 2023. As noted in our previous blog, it will be important to monitor the proliferation of PE in healthcare and determine its impact on healthcare markets, care delivery, innovation, and quality.

  6. Consolidations

    Like many other industries, consolidations of all sorts have been happening in healthcare. The consolidations are both vertical—combining two or more stages of production normally operated by separate companies into one company, such as when hospitals or insurers employ physicians and/or acquire physician practices or other entities like pharmacies—and horizontal—combining organizations that provide the same or similar services, such as hospitals acquiring hospitals.

    Mid-year Update: Consolidations of all sorts of healthcare entities continued in 2023 with some of the biggest potential consolidations yet. Those include the proposed merger of two major bi-coastal health system providers: Geisinger, based in Pennsylvania, and Kaiser, based in California. Although the deal must still go through regulatory approval, if completed, the two systems will create a nonprofit that will look to add five or six more systems nationally over the next five years. Other notable consolidations include the finalization of tech-giant Amazon’s purchase of One Medical, a primary care network. And Optum, one of the largest conglomerates that is a subsidiary of United Health Group, increased its net revenue growth by 25% to $54.1 billion in the first quarter of 2023, primarily due to more patients visiting OptumHealth clinics and growth in OptumRx pharmacy scripts processed. Optum’s growth is likely to continue in 2023 as they expect to add another 10,000 physicians. Case in point, in February of this year, Optum paid an undisclosed sum for Crystal Run Healthcare, a network of nearly 400 providers in New York. A goal of consolidation has been better coordination of patient care for improved outcomes and value. Results have been mixed and it is therefore an important trend for policymakers and researchers to monitor and to ensure the impacts are positive.

  7. Alternate Payment Models

    Alternate payment models (APMs) in healthcare have been expanding especially since enactment of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act in 2010. They are primarily being developed by the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation (CMMI) which has driven payment policy (including APMs) in the two big government healthcare programs: Medicaid and Medicare. There have been several iterations of APMs—over 50 models—but the one common theme is that all of them generally seek to reward better care.

    Mid-year Update: Since the start of 2023, the most notable expansion of the trend toward more alternate payment models was CMMI’s introduction of a new primary care-focused APM called Making Care Primary. In addition to this model, it is expected that the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS), which oversees the operation of these two large public health insurance programs, will introduce more new payment models in 2023, including one that allows states to manage the total cost of care in a given region. This may take various forms, including something akin to Maryland’s global budget, which is used statewide. Since the total cost of care model has yet to be officially revealed, this trend and the emergence of any new developments is worth watching in the second half of 2023. Policymakers can learn from these various payment models and use them to inform the plans implemented in their own state or region in order to improve healthcare.

  8. Attention to Health Equity

    A notable aspect of the pandemic was the disparate impact it had on people of color and other marginalized groups. In response, policymakers and providers began paying more attention to the underlying cause of these disparities. In 2021, President Joe Biden signed an executive order to focus federal resources and attention on reducing health disparities.

    Mid-year Update: Increased attention to health equity in healthcare has continued. Ernst and Young, an international consulting group, released its first-ever report on the state of health equity in the United States, which involved a survey of over 500 providers to begin tracking their methods for, and progress in, addressing health disparities. More recently, in June 2023, The Joint Commission on the Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO) announced that it will be adding a certification program for healthcare organizations specifically targeted towards improving health equity. While attention to equity has grown, what will be interesting to watch in the second half of 2023 is the degree to which such efforts are having an impact on actually reducing disparities. Understanding the impacts of various interventions can help policymakers expand efforts that are effective.

  9. Digital TeleHealth Delivery Expansion

    The use of digital health expanded dramatically from 2020 to 2022 as social distancing practices were adopted and telehealth options became more widely available. As noted in our blog series, digital health “includes mobile health (mHealth), health information technology (IT), wearable devices, telehealth and telemedicine, and personalized medicine.” It also includes, “mobile medical apps and software that support the clinical decisions doctors make every day to do artificial intelligence and machine learning.”

    Mid-year Update: At the end of 2022 and the start of 2023, the ability to infuse capital to drive the expansion of digital health seemed tenuous, in part due to the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank (SVB). As noted by the publication Pitchbook and CB Insights, venture capital funding in the digital health space totaled $7.5 billion in 2022, a 57 percent year-over-year drop. Although the fast pace of investment in digital health may have slowed since its explosion during the pandemic, the expansion of digital health continues. Our January blog suggested that areas such as behavioral health, care at home, and maternal health were areas to watch. In 2023, digital access is expanding in other areas, such as in-home urgent primary care to allow for the treatment of complex injuries and illnesses with the goal of reducing emergency department visits. And other important digital health deals are still occurring: health tech startup Florence picked up Zipnosis from Bright Health to expand its virtual care capabilities. And with the launch of consumer-facing tech products, such as Chat GPT and Apple Vision Pro in the first half of 2023, additional opportunities for applying such technologies in healthcare may fuel further expansion of digital health. Policies that are developed in the future may want to support the growth of such innovation, while also being mindful to monitor the potential impacts on care.

  10. Expansion of Non-Traditional Providers

    In January, we noted an emergence of companies in healthcare whose genesis was something other than healthcare. The blog pointed to examples of how companies such as Walgreens, CVS, and Amazon were expanding their offerings in healthcare.

    Mid-year Update: Non-traditional entities continue to expand in the healthcare space. Notable examples include the recent acquisitions and expansions made by CVS. One of these expansions is being done through its affiliation with the insurance company, Aetna. Through Aetna, CVS has entered the insurance exchange market in four more states in 2023, in addition to the 12 states in which it already operates. CVS also closed a deal in the first half of 2023 to acquire Oak Street Health for over $10 billion. And, in March 2023, CVS announced it had officially acquired Signify Health, a digital telehealth company that enables more care to occur in-home. As noted earlier, Amazon officially completed its deal to acquire OneMedical and United Health Group is working on expanding its use of value-based care through a partnership with Walmart. Monitoring the impact of these emerging companies in healthcare will be important for policymakers that have historically only focused on more traditional providers, such as hospitals. These non-traditional entrants, in many cases, are large organizations with substantial resources and their impact may be just as significant if not greater than traditional providers.


These trends merit close attention in the second half of 2023. As healthcare takes on new shapes, the implications for those in the sector and all who depend on it will be huge. In addition, there are important implications for state and federal policymakers who will need to consider how these trends impact access, affordability, and quality of health care, so they can determine whether and how government might help to accelerate beneficial innovations, invest in promising trends, prevent or reverse harmful trends, and monitor the impacts on consumers.


Courtney Burke is senior fellow for health policy at the Rockefeller Institute of Government

[i] Since 2000, the price of medical care, including services provided as well as insurance, drugs, and medical equipment, has increased by 115.1%. In contrast, prices for all consumer goods and services rose by 78.2% in the same period. Prices for hospital services and related services (4.0%)—both inpatient (3.4%) and outpatient (3.6%)—as well as for nursing homes (6.2%) rose faster than for prescription drugs and physicians’ services (2.4% and 1.2%, respectively). The medical CPI is generally based on lagged data, even more so than other CPI categories. For example, the prescription drug CPI does not immediately reflect the introduction of new, high-priced drugs.