Ascension earnings bolstered by increased joint venture revenue, COVID-19 relief

Ascension
Ascension saw total admissions dip to 186,759 in the quarter, down about 10% from 205,838 admissions in the same period a year earlier. Even so, the health system saw an increase in its net income and revenue. (Ascension)

St. Louis-based Ascension Health posted $1.2 billion in net income in the first quarter of its fiscal year that ended Sept. 30.

It was up from a loss of $235 million in the same quarter a year earlier. That was despite the drops in patient volumes across the Catholic health system's operations attributed to the COVID-19 pandemic. In all, the health system reported revenue of $6.6 billion, up from $6.5 billion a year earlier.  

Officials attributed the increase in revenue to favorable joint venture performance, as well the sale of a joint venture. They also pointed to CARES Act relief funding and increases in retail pharmacy sales. Ascension received CARES Act funding of about $185,000, as well as approximately $2 billion of Medicare Advanced Payments as part of federal COVID-19 relief.

RELATED: Ascension reports $1B income last quarter

"The global novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has had significant economic and operational impact on the U.S. healthcare industry, as well as specific impact on Ascension business operations, employees and patients at sites of care, and communities served by the System," officials said in a discussion of their quarterly results. "Consumer confidence and healthcare hesitation as a result of COVID-19 continue to affect Ascension markets, to varying degrees."

Ascension saw total admissions dip to 186,759 in the quarter, down about 10% from 205,838 admissions in the same period a year earlier. The health system's emergency room visits were down about 20% to 669,155 from 839,183 during the same quarter a year earlier. 

Meanwhile, total outpatient visits for the three months ended Sept. 30 were down 7.6% compared to the prior year. On a same facility basis, total outpatient visits decreased 5.5% for the three months ended Sept. 30 as compared to the same period in the prior year.

Ascension saw an increase in acuity among its patients as volumes dipped. The health system reported its case mix index increased 6% in the quarter ending Sept. 30 compared to the prior year. This increase is primarily due to higher acuity patients, including COVID-19-positive patients, seeking care during the pandemic, officials said.

The system's net unrestricted cash and investments were $19.9 billion as of Sept. 30, about 45.9% of the system’s total assets. The system’s days cash on hand was 296 days. Ascension maintains two lines of credit, totaling $1 billion.