Federal COVID funds boost flagging hospital revenue
The Center for Health Information and Analysis released its monthly hospital financial performance data on Thursday, providing a picture of how hospitals fared through the first five months of the pandemic. Among the key takeaways is the fact that COVID-19 federal funds, received by many hospitals throughout the state, boosted operating revenue and income significantly.
The situation was pretty bleak in April and May after Department of Public Health Commissioner Monica Bharel issued an order requiring all hospitals and ambulatory surgical centers to postpone or cancel any nonessential, elective procedures beginning March 18.
It was a decision intended to keep personnel and medical space open for treating sick patients with COVID-19 during a time period when more than 3,000 people per day were testing positive.
For hospitals, it became almost all COVID, all the time, but income tanked. In March, the Boston Business Journalreported, nearly every acute care hospital had total margins in the negative, with a median rate of negative 28.9 percent.
It was two months later — on May 18 —that the state began Phase 1, allowing for the limited expansion of non-emergency health care services. As income started to flow in, hospitals also received $608.8 million in federal funding and $93.7 million in state funding during June and July, providing an economic boost.
Officials at the Center for Health Information and Analysis say that if no COVID-19 relief funds had been distributed, the median total margins would have been minus 1.8 percent in June and 5.8 percent in July. With the relief funds, the hospitals ended up having a median total margin of 12.3 percent in June and 22.4 percent in July.
Massachusetts General Hospital and Brigham and Women’s Hospital, the two institutions at the heart of the state’s largest health system, Mass General Brigham (formerly Partners HealthCare), was doing well pre-pandemic with a jaw-dropping $3.1 billion and $2.4 billion in net patient service revenue, respectively, in 2019, according to the BBJ.
In March, their combined operating margin dropped to a negative 74 percent. By July, the health system had bounced back to 9.8 percent after receiving $147.1 million in COVID-19 funds that month alone.
While some patients remain anxious about getting the virus, others are returning in droves for check-ups and procedures. The rebound won’t cover losses from the spring, according to Dr. Ateev Mehrotra, associate professor at Harvard Medical School and lead author of a study on the impacts of the pandemic on outpatient care. But he’s not worried.
“In many cases practices are back to their same visit volume, and theoretically that means the same amount of revenue. However, they took a substantial hit,” Mehrotra told WBUR, “But my level of concern is lower than it was previously.”
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FROM AROUND THE WEB
Boston Mayor Marty Walsh warns if COVID-19 infection rates continue to trend in the wrong direction, the city could revert to strict shutdown measures. (GBH) Walsh vows to crack down on large parties in the city. (Boston Herald)
Public records obtained by The Enterprise show that former Brockton mayor Moises Rodrigues used city funds to cover a private funeral for a man who was fatally struck by a police cruiser last year, unbeknownst to taxpayers.
Sgt. Eddie Chrispin, president of the Massachusetts Association of Minority Law Enforcement Officers, is concernedthat the bias displayed within the department may be indicative of a broader pattern of bias in policing. (Bay State Banner)
Pfizer says its coronavirus vaccine won’t be ready before mid-November, putting an end to President Trump’s suggestion that there could be a vaccine before Election Day. (New York Times)
The Weymouth Senior Center has had to close its doors again and stop programs it had resumed just a week ago because of an increase in COVID-19 cases in the town, which is now in the state’s red zone. (Patriot Ledger)
Fall River Mayor Paul Coogan says he doesn’t consider the increase of new COVID-19 cases that pushed the city into the “red zone” as a spike, but rather a “gradual increase.” (Herald News)
Somerville, whose mayor, Joe Curtatone, has been among the most cautious local officials in terms of reopening in the face of the virus, slips into the red zone. (Boston Globe)
Federal officials are attempting to revoke the license of Boston-based Orig3n Labs, a consumer genetics company, to operate a clinical lab due to problems with the lab’s processing of COVID-19 testing. (Telegram & Gazette)
President Trump and Joe Biden hold dueling town halls. (NPR)
A Boston Herald editorial slams the media, Facebook, and Twitter for not reporting on or suppressing the sharing of a New York Post story alleging that Hunter Biden introduced his father, then the vice president, to a Ukrainian energy executive less than a year before Joe Biden urged Ukrainian officials to fire a prosecutor investigating the company. Twitter says it is adjusting its policy on sharing or linking to hacked material. (Washington Post)
Globe columnist Renee Graham says Gov. Charlie Baker should stop the mealy-mouthed approach to the presidential election by saying he won’t vote for President Trump and declare his support for Joe Biden.
The owner of the Dalton farm where hay bales backing Biden and Kamala Harris were set on fire reached out to the man who set the fire and empathizes with him over the loss of his son. (Berkshire Eagle)
GBH’s Curiosity Desk explains the rules around poll watching, and very clearly outlines what isn’t allowed.
Battered by COVID-19 closures and restrictions, MGM Springfield reports its worst revenue month since it opened. (MassLive)
Boloco is on the ropes and talking to potential buyers. (Boston Globe)
The Lowell Public Schools will move to all-remote instruction on Monday following increases in coronavirus cases in the city. (Boston Globe)
Roxbury Community College plans to launch a new nursing program next fall after its previous program was stripped of accreditation. (Boston Herald)
A Boston University student chronicles her daily compliance with the school’s COVID-19 protocols. (DigBoston)
As Gov. Charlie Baker level funds higher education, college faculty are highlighting the need for greater investment in their schools. (The Salem News)
Massachusetts foster parents are trying to unionize, and would become the first foster parents in the country to do so. (Associated Press)
Massport is bracing for huge cuts as the pandemic shreds its revenue with the steep dropoff in air travel. (Boston Globe)
The Walsh administration is becoming increasingly vocal in its support of an all-grade-level reconfiguration of the Massachusetts Turnpike “throat” area in Allston, a position that could put the city on a collision course with the Baker administration. (Boston Globe)
Bristol County had the most deer crashes in the state during the last mating season. (Standard-Times)
Massachusetts lost ground on reducing greenhouse emissions in 2018, but the Baker administration says the state will meet its target for 2020. (State House News)
A Woods Hole scientist was part of an expedition that spent a year researching the Arctic ecosystem, which required spending months at a time on a boat near the North Pole. (Cape Cod Times)
A large fire at a landfill at Bondi’s Island in Agawam, which blanketed the region with smoke, is expected to keep burning into the weekend. (MassLive)
The president of the Boston Police Patrolmen’s Association, the city’s largest police union, says recently announced reforms will amount to nothing more than costly new layers of bureaucracy. (Boston Globe)
Hanover Town Manager Joseph Colangelo is back on the job after being placed on administrative leave with pay following a domestic violence arrest at the end of August. (Patriot Ledger)
Seven people are indicted for fraudulently billing MassHealth for personal care attendant services that weren’t provided. (MassLive)MEDIA
C-SPAN suspended political editor Steve Scully indefinitely for claiming his Twitter feed had been hacked when it hadn’t been. (Associated Press)