Ascension, the nation's largest not-for-profit health system, ended the first six months of its fiscal year with five more hospitals and a weaker margin.
The St. Louis-based system acquired four Tennessee hospitals and one in Michigan during the first half of its fiscal year, which ended Dec. 31. The growth contributed to an increase in hospital admissions and masked a slight decrease in surgeries, as well as patients held for observation, and emergency department visits across the system's other hospitals during that period, new financial statements show.
However, Ascension's overall performance for the six months benefited from fewer patients who were unable to afford their medical care in states that expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. In states that expanded Medicaid, system write-offs dropped 17.5% for low-income patients who received free or discounted care under the system's financial aid policy. In states that did not expand Medicaid, the cost of financial aid increased 6.9%.
Ascension's revenue for the six months totaled $10.7 billion, an increase of 3.3% from the same six month period in the prior year.
Hiring and higher wages increased Ascension's operating expenses, as did spending for prescription drugs and new health information technology.
The system reported an operating surplus for the six months of $310.9 million, or a margin of 2.9%. That's compared with an operating surplus of $394.8 million for the same period the year before, with a 3.8% margin.
Investment losses left the system with a net loss of $323.9 million for the first half of the year, compared with a $21.3 million net gain the prior year.