Ascension reports $1B income last quarter

Ascension
St. Louis-based Catholic health giant Ascension said its bottom line for the most recent six months reached $795 million on $13.1 billion in revenue. (Ascension)

Ascension's net income reached $1 billion in its most recent quarter ending Dec. 31, the health system reported in a recently released financial statement.

That was up from losses of more than $982 million on $6.5 billion during the same quarter in 2018, due in part to investment returns. The health system saw a return for the six months ended Dec. 31 of $755.7 million.

However, the St. Louis-based Catholic health giant said its bottom line for the most recent six months only reached $795 million on $13.1 billion in revenue, citing a drop in its income from operations. 

The health system reported losses of $568 million for the same six-month period in 2018 on $12.6 billion in revenue.

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Overall, officials said they saw increases in patient volumes, higher acuity of patients served and expansion of service lines and sites of care in addition to the favorable investments in the last six months. 

Ascension reported 408,676 admissions in the six months ended Dec. 31, up just slightly from 408,142 in the same six-month period a year earlier. The health system reported its emergency room visits also increased to 1.67 million from 1.66 million, and its surgery visits—both inpatient and outpatient—increased to 329,571 from 325,435. Its case mix index rose 3.1% to 1.72 from 1.67 in the same six months a year earlier. 

Still, its growth in expenses outpaced its revenue growth. The health system reported a jump in its expenses of $528 million, or 4.2%, saying the increase was primarily due to increased volumes, expanding service lines and sites of care as well as continued transition toward standardized revenue cycle services. 

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For example, supply costs increased 5.2%—or by $96.4 million—compared to the same period a year earlier due to an increase in acuity of patient care. Total salaries, wages and benefits increased $120 million, or nearly 2%, compared to the same period in the prior year.

Ascension reported it provided $376 million in charity care in the period ending Dec. 31, up from $266 million in the same six months a year earlier. That $100.6 million jump was due to a new process aimed at better identifying patients qualifying for charity in certain markets, officials said. In all, Ascension said it provided approximately $1.2 billion in community benefit.

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