A recent article from Axios attempts to say that the hospital and health system field is not being negatively impacted financially by the pandemic. The article ignores the diverse experiences of hospitals during the pandemic, particularly those that are under significant financial pressure.
According to our own estimates, the hospital field is estimated to lose at least $323 billion this year alone due to lost revenue from canceled or postponed services and costs associated with treating COVID patients. In addition, an analysis prepared by Kaufman, Hall & Associates, LLC and released by the AHA this summer found that without further government support, average hospital margins could sink to -7% in the second half of 2020, with half of all hospitals operating in the red.
It is important to remember that while every hospital and health system shares many of the same challenges in battling the pandemic, they are also all unique. The quarterly filings of some health systems are not representative of the field as a whole. There are many different hospital types that operate in this country, all of which have different resource and financial capacities. For example, many media reports have described other providers that are in the red due to the pandemic and are struggling to continue to provide care.
In addition, the effects of the pandemic have not been evenly distributed across the country, with cities and states experiencing spikes in COVID infections and hospitalizations at different times. In some cases, the ability of geographically diverse health systems to redistribute supplies, capital, and in some cases, workforce capacity, when necessary, may help them deal with a pandemic.
This financial crisis is a serious obstacle to keeping the doors open for many hospitals. While we appreciate the support from the Administration and Congress, we need further help to stay afloat to continue our mission of caring for patients and communities.
Aaron Wesolowski is AHA’s vice president of policy research, analytics and strategy.