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The New Normal… Same as the Old Normal?

By: Ron E. Peck, Esq.

We are already almost halfway through 2021; can you believe it?  Throughout 2020, I recall many people (myself included) desperately looking forward to a better 2021.  We all convinced ourselves that 2021 would result in an instantaneous return to a pre-COVID way of life.  More than five months into 2021, however, and we are still enduring many restrictions (though far fewer than this time last year).  That being said, while a return to normalcy didn’t take place overnight, things are certainly improving.  This, then, causes me to wonder – which changes are tattooed to our society, and which are merely sunburns?

One slogan that I refused to adopt was the phrase: “The new normal.”  Not being able to leave my home without a mask or a healthy dose of fear is not normal.  I like many refused to accept what we experienced as “normal,” new or otherwise.  With that in mind, we – as members of society, employers and employees, friends and family, and members of the health benefits community – must determine which changes will fade, and which are here to stay?

We saw people forego routine medical care.  Diagnostic and preventative medicine reached all-time lows.  Now, complications arising from undetected and untreated conditions are looming.  I, like many, hope that this “avoidance” of preemptive care will not last.

We saw people opt to communicate with their providers virtually.  While many services cannot be provided virtually (and for the reasons stated above, I do hope many people will visit their health care providers in person when needed), I also hope that – when appropriate – we continue to work with providers utilizing technology.  These virtual visits make health care more accessible, and convenient for the provider and patient alike.  Additionally, it “should” reduce costs.  I emphasize the word “should,” as we have – unfortunately – seen some providers charge benefit plans the same amount for a virtual visit as what they would charge for an in-person visit.  I personally don’t think we should be paying a facility fee when both the patient and the provider are chatting from their respective homes.

Another trend we hope to see remain is enthusiasm for safe behaviors (such as hand washing) and vaccinations.  A new level of awareness as it relates to the transmission of viruses, along with preventative measures meant to limit the spread of COVID-19, had the auxiliary effect of reducing the spread of flu and other diseases.  This in turn reduced illness and the costs associated with it; such as missed work and medical expenses.  While I don’t foresee people “social distancing” and wearing masks forever, certainly other behaviors that were overlooked or taken for granted – such as hand sanitation, respectful distancing, and opting to stay home when sick – will result in a general improvement in public health (and an overall reduction in costs).

These are just a few changes that we experienced over the last year, and my own opinion regarding which I welcome as part of the “new normal,” and those that I hope depart along with this pandemic.  Which changes do you hope stick with us, and which would you like to see eliminated?