Jul 15, 2020 - Health

Health care's "COVID quarter" is here

A worker in personal protective gear zips off a COVID-19 unit in a hospital.

A COVID-19 unit at a Houston hospital. Photo: Mark Felix/AFP via Getty Images

Health care companies will start reporting second-quarter financials in earnest this week, showing how the coronavirus lockdowns and subsequent reopenings affected their businesses.

The big picture: Revenues almost certainly will be down for most companies, as the virus forced people to stay at home and led to fewer people getting surgeries and going to pharmacies. But that doesn't mean profits were eliminated, and Wall Street has already pumped health care stock prices back to where they were pre-pandemic.

Between the lines: Health insurers stand to profit the most in the quarter because people deferred a lot of care that wasn't related to COVID-19.

  • Insurance companies still collected premiums, but paid out fewer medical claims — which inevitably will lead to higher earnings.
  • However, some insurers have issued premium rebates back to employers and consumers.

What to watch: Whether more companies continue to get large tax breaks that stemmed from federal coronavirus legislation.

  • Tax-exempt, not-for-profit hospitals also were battered in the first quarter by the market's downturn, so it's worth watching how much their sizable investment holdings rebounded.

Go deeper: Follow our health care earnings tracker

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