Hospitals’ already thin margins plunged into the red in March as non-emergency procedures and revenues fell and expenses for staff, supplies and building capacity rose to prepare for a surge in COVID-19 patients, according to a new report by health care consultancy Kaufman Hall.

Based on data from more than 800 hospitals, median operating margins fell to –8% in March, down from 4% in February. Operating earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization fell 100% compared to the same period last year, or 13 percentage points in absolute change.

The report also found that bad debt and charity care increased by 13% year over year. According to the report, the results “will be even more dramatic in coming months, as hospitals experience the effects of COVID-19 over extended periods."

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