May 28, 2021 - Health

Ascension has weathered the pandemic just fine

Data: Ascension financial disclosures; Chart: Will Chase/Axios

Taxpayer bailouts and massive gains from Wall Street investments helped Ascension — the largest tax-exempt hospital system in the country — glide through the coronavirus pandemic.

Why it matters: Dominant hospital chains like Ascension really haven't had to worry about their financial status during the pandemic, unlike smaller hospitals and safety-net systems, in part because those chains already accumulated massive rainy day funds over the years.

By the numbers: Patients still aren't going to Ascension's hospitals and doctors' offices as much as they were before the pandemic. But the Catholic system is still making a surplus from patient care as it treats sicker people, according to its most recent financial disclosure.

  • Ascension has received $1.8 billion in federal bailout grants and has registered $5.7 billion in total net profit in the 12-month period that ended March 31.

What they're saying: Ascension told its bondholders that the pandemic has cost the system "$1.9 billion in lost revenue and pandemic-related expenses," and that although the federal grants didn't completely cover that amount, it was "able to absorb the remaining negative financial impact through other operations."

  • It's worth noting Ascension is sitting on $26 billion of cash and investments.

Between the lines: Ascension is essentially a hedge fund that also happens to run hospitals and other care facilities.

  • Just one example: Ascension is a major investor of R1 RCM, a medical billing, coding and collections company whose stock price has doubled since the pandemic started.

Go deeper: Hospitals are making a fortune on Wall Street

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