A $457 million net loss for the quarter ended June 30 has brought Sutter Health even deeper into the red for 2022, according to new financial filings.
The Sacramento-based nonprofit health system brought in $3.49 billion in total operating revenues from the quarter, down slightly from the prior year’s $3.51 billion.
At the same time, the system’s operating expenses grew from $3.41 billion in the second quarter of 2021 to $3.55 billion in the most recent quarter, driven by $30 million and $151 million year-over-year increases in salaries and purchased services, respectively. The latter includes the increased professional fees being felt by labor-strapped systems across the country.
These led the system to report a $51 million operating loss for the quarter as opposed to the $106 million operating gain from last year’s equivalent quarter.
“Poorly” performing financial markets also took a toll on Sutter’s numbers. The system’s quarterly investment income dipped from $251 million to $56 million from 2021 to 2022. A $495 million downward change in net unrealized gains and losses on its investments was also a stark reversal from the prior year’s $270 million increase.
The new numbers cement what was already looking to be a tricky year for Sutter Health, which had previously reported a $184 million net loss for its opening quarter.
Despite a 1.5% year-over-year operating revenue increase to $7.05 billion for the opening six months, a 1.7% year-over-year operating expense bump places the system’s year-to-date income at $44 million (0.6% operating margin), slightly below last year’s $57 million (0.8% operating margin).
However, market struggles through both quarters and a $208 million loss tied to the disaffiliation of Samuel Merritt University now has Sutter sitting at a $641 million net loss for the opening half of 2022. The system was up $825 million at the same time last year.
“Sutter’s finances have stabilized, but our year-to-date numbers show we still have more affordability work ahead as we strive to best position Sutter Health to serve our patients and communities into the future," the system wrote in an email statement. "We are grateful for our employees and clinicians who have worked diligently over the last several years to help bring our costs down—at the same time managing through the pandemic and continuing to provide high-quality, nationally recognized care."
Sutter noted in the filing that it is or will be in labor negotiations with much of its unionized workforce, as 43% of its contract agreements have either expired or will be running their course within the year.
The filing also included notice of a handful of legal matters that have yet to be resolved. These include an antitrust verdict in favor of Sutter that is being appealed by the plaintiff, a lawsuit regarding an alleged privacy breach of two anonymous plaintiffs and two separate class-action complaints regarding employee retirement plan funding, among others.
“The organization continues to face financial headwinds like inflation and increased staffing costs, as evidenced by our near breakeven operating margin," Sutter said in a statement. "Even still, we are encouraged that independent ratings agencies have recently acknowledged our efforts to date. In the second quarter, Moody’s, S&P and Fitch all affirmed the system’s existing 'A' category bond ratings.”
Much of Sutter’s pains are being felt across the industry. A recent Kaufman Hall industrywide report showed only marginal relief from expenses and middling non-COVID volume recovery through June, while a Fitch Ratings update on nonprofit hospitals warned that these challenges and broader inflation pressures will likely weigh down the sector through 2022.
Editor's note: Updated Aug. 5 with comments from Sutter Health.