Hospitals lost money during COVID
IT MAY BE counterintuitive, but experts have long been saying that the public health emergency actually lowered the amount of money being spent on health care.
The reason is that people have been deferring non-emergency care. So overall appointments for health care have decreased, even as providers are tasked with responding to COVID-19 and related demands for testing and vaccinations.
Two recent reports released by the Center for Health Information and Analysis put new numbers on this trend.
One report, released Thursday, measures hospital profitability for fiscal 2020. (Some hospitals ended their fiscal year in June 2020; others in September.) It found that hospital revenue from patient services dropped by $1.4 billion last year, while hospitals’ expenses increased by $1.3 billion. Hospital profitability was lower than the prior year, even after accounting for $1.8 billion in COVID relief spending.
A different report released Monday on hospital discharges shows why patient revenues are declining so much. Pre-COVID, the state’s hospitals were consistently discharging between around 65,000 and 70,000 patients a month. In April 2020, during the first COVID surge, that number dropped to around 48,000. The number has since rebounded but through December, the number of hospital discharges has generally been between 55,000 and 65,000 each month.
Hospital officials are likely to use the new reports to advocate for additional relief money from the federal and state governments. Steve Walsh, president and CEO of the Massachusetts Health and Hospital Association, said in a statement that the data “confirms the tremendous financial challenges our providers have faced throughout the pandemic.” He noted that costs have increased for setting up vaccination clinics, buying personal protective equipment, and reducing patient capacity due to spacing requirements, at the same time as elective and other in-person procedures were put on hold. “Additional financial support is needed as our providers continue their response and navigate a new normal,” Walsh said.
Acting Boston Mayor Kim Janey said she expects the investigation into domestic violence allegations against the city’s police commissioner to be completed sometime this month — and she voiced mixed sentiments about the issue at the center of the probe. Read more.
The state’s chief campaign finance regulator referred evidence to Attorney General Maura Healey that he believes indicates Sen. Ryan Fattman, Worcester County Register of Probate Stephanie Fattman, Republican Party chairman Jim Lyons, and others may have violated campaign finance laws. A series of eight referral letters to Healey did not spell out the specific allegations of wrongdoing, but they appeared to broaden the scope of the investigation beyond the Fattmans. An aide to Healey said the attorney general would review the letters and accompanying evidence and determine if criminal charges should be filed. Read more.
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FROM AROUND THE WEB
Lawmakers scrutinize how the state has spent federal stimulus money and say they want a greater oversight role. (Gloucester Daily Times)
Democratic legislative leaders insist on keeping municipal employees covered by a newly proposed paid sick leave program, despite an amendment by Gov. Charlie Baker that would have removed them. (State House News Service)
Attorney General Maura Healey renewed her call for auto insurers to provide rebates to customers in the face of plummeting claims during the pandemic. (Boston Globe)
The Boston City Council, including the three councilors running for mayor, approve a resolution urging passage of a constitutional amendment placing a new tax on millionaires. (GBH)
COVID cases dipped last week after steadily increasing for a few weeks, leading to hope that the latest surge might be abating. But the number of communities listed as high-risk – 77 – increased once again. There were 978 cases reported in schools, of which 821 were students. (MassLive)
Mississippi had 73,000 open vaccination appointment slots yesterday and little demand for them, a sign of greater vaccine hesitancy in heavily Republican states. (New York Times)
Rochelle Walensky, the head of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, calls racism a serious public health threat. (NPR)
Bristol County Sheriff Thomas Hodgson spearheads a letter to President Biden from 275 sheriffs urging a return to many of the immigration policies of the Trump administration. Barnstable County Sheriff James Cummings also signed on to the letter. (GBH)
Young activists in Boston and elsewhere are talking about giving 16 and 17-year-olds the right to vote in local elections. (MassLive)
Massachusetts will issue refunds to people getting unemployment benefits who already paid taxes on those benefits before a law was passed making them non-taxable. (Gloucester Daily Times)
Eastern Bank chief executive Bob Rivers says the planned acquisition of Century Bank is only the first of what he hopes will be a set of takeovers. (Boston Globe)
Despite a bill aimed at lessening the increase in businesses’ unemployment insurance costs, a lot of businesses are still seeing major fee hikes this year in the amount they have to pay to a separate “solvency fund,” which covers COVID-related unemployment claims. (MassLive)
A union vote among workers at an Amazon warehouse in Alabama appears to be heading to defeat. (Washington Post)
Braintree is writing a social media policy for school committee members after a controversy over insensitive posts about gun control made by school committee members. (The Patriot Ledger)
Native American groups are calling for the Boston Marathon to be rescheduled from October 11 because it conflicts with Indigenous People’s Day — a holiday celebrated by some communities instead of Columbus Day. (Associated Press)
Gas companies are complaining that a new rule requiring a professional engineer to sign off on all projects is unnecessary in certain cases. (Eagle-Tribune)
The pandemic has delayed the path to citizenship for many immigrants due to immigration office closures. (Herald News)
A 10-month-old child is found dead, after he became sick and his foster parents allegedly failed to obtain medical treatment for him. (MassLive)
The families of two Boston police officers, one of whom was killed and one of whom was seriously injured by a bomb blast in 1991, implore a federal judge not to release one of the men convicted of being responsible for the blast. (Boston Herald)
The Derek Chauvin murder case in Minnesota is being followed closely by many in the Boston area, with Imari Paris Jeffries of King Boston, the nonprofit planning a monument to honor Martin Luther King Jr. in Boston, saying, “It’s like racism is on trial.” (Boston Globe)
PASSINGSPrince Phillip, the Duke of Edinburgh, died at age 99. (The Times)