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Photo: Rafael Henrique/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

HCA Healthcare, the largest for-profit hospital chain in the country, smashed Wall Street's second-quarter profit expectations even though the coronavirus outbreak forced hospitals to halt elective procedures for several weeks during the quarter.

The bottom line: Medical claims and revenues noticeably declined among hospitals during the height of the pandemic, which has benefited health insurers. But that didn't prevent hospitals from making a lot of money, a large chunk of which was directly subsidized by taxpayers in the form of bailout funds.

By the numbers: HCA's second-quarter profit was roughly $1.1 billion, a 38% increase from the same period a year ago.

  • HCA has received $1.4 billion in coronavirus bailout funds to date, of which $822 million was recognized in the second quarter. After taking out taxes, HCA recorded $590 million in taxpayer bailouts in the quarter — representing 55% of its profit.
  • Revenue in the quarter dropped 12%, to $11.1 billion.

Between the lines: The decline in patient visits was short-lived at most HCA facilities.

  • Hospitalizations in the second quarter were down 13% year over year, and outpatient surgeries fell 33%.
  • But by June, everything was mostly back to normal, HCA CFO Bill Rutherford said on an investor call. HCA's outpatient surgeries were actually 1% higher in June, when compared with last June.

The big picture: HCA's extremely profitable report comes on the same day that the health care industry is asking Congress for an additional $100 billion in taxpayer bailouts.

Go deeper: The coronavirus is further dividing rich and poor hospitals

Go deeper

Oct 30, 2020 - Health

States beg for Warp Speed billions

A COVID-19 drive-thru testing center yesterday at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens. Photo: David Santiago/Miami Herald via AP

Operation Warp Speed has an Achilles' heel: States need billions to distribute vaccines — and many say they don't have the cash.

Why it matters: The first emergency use authorization could come as soon as next month, but vaccines require funding for workers, shipping and handling, and for reserving spaces for vaccination sites.

Top HHS spokesperson pitched coronavirus ad campaign as "helping the president"

Michael Caputo. Photo: Mark Wilson/Getty Images

In September, Health and Human Services spokesperson Michael Caputo privately pitched one branch of the agency's $250 million coronavirus ad campaign with the theme: "Helping the President will Help the Country," according to documents released by House Democrats on the Oversight Committee on Thursday.

Why it matters: These are the latest documents that suggest the deep politicization of the Trump administration's coronavirus response.

Oct 30, 2020 - Health

Coronavirus surge threatens to shut classrooms down again

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The nationwide surge in coronavirus cases is forcing many school districts to pull back from in-person instruction.

Why it matters: Remote learning is a burden on parents, teachers and students. But the wave of new infections, and its strain on some hospitals' capacity, makes all forms of reopening harder to justify.