Sep 19, 2019

Health care profits explode

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The health care industry continued to rake in record-level profits in the second quarter, with its year-over-year earnings increasing by 23%, according to an Axios analysis of 160 companies.

The bottom line: Pharmaceutical firms and hospitals, in particular, are reaping some of the largest rewards even amid the sustained public furor over drug prices and surprise medical bills.

Where it stands: We updated our health care earnings tracker to include 48 not-for-profit hospital systems, many of which also own health insurance companies, and we will add more as more financial documents are released.

By the numbers: Big Pharma remains the cash king.

  • Drug companies collected almost half of all health care profits despite generating less than 20% of industry revenue.
  • 12 of the 16 most profitable companies in Q2 were pharmaceutical firms.
  • This theme should sound familiar.

The intrigue: Hospitals don't retain as much money as drug companies, but their prices and Wall Street investments are still leading to sizable windfalls.

  • The combined net profit margin for this sample of hospital systems was 8.6%. That's lower than the extremely profitable first quarter hospitals had, but above average for the entire group.
  • 17 of the 55 companies in the analysis that had net margins of at least 10% in Q2 were not-for-profit hospital systems.

The big picture: The profits don't just lead to hefty paydays. They allow the industry to amass a war chest to fend off piecemeal reforms and larger-scale overhauls like Medicare for All.

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