Ascension records $1B annual loss

Ascension's revenue remained mostly flat year over year in fiscal 2020, but the St. Louis-based health system ended the period with a loss, according to financial documents. 

The 150-hospital system reported operating revenue of $25.3 billion in fiscal year 2020, down less than 1 percent from a year earlier. Net patient service revenue declined in the most recent fiscal year due to a drop in patient volume attributed to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

"COVID-19 has been encountered across all Ascension markets, to varying degrees, and has had a negative impact on the system's revenues and operating margin," the health system said. 

Total admissions, emergency room visits, inpatient and outpatient surgeries, clinic and urgent care visits were down year over year in fiscal 2020. However, patient volume began to bounce back in the fourth quarter. The system said patient discharges in June were at 90 percent of their June 2019 levels. 

The health system's expenses climbed 2.7 percent to $25.7 billion in fiscal 2020. The increase was primarily due to expanded service lines, merit raises and IT costs, Ascension said. Total salaries, wages and benefits increased 2.5 percent year over year. 

Ascension ended the most recent fiscal year with an operating loss of $639.4 million, compared to operating income of $130.6 million a year earlier. 

After factoring in nonoperating items, including losses from investments of $410.2 million, Ascension reported a net loss of $1.04 billion in fiscal 2020. A year earlier, the health system reported investment gains of $1.1 billion and net income of $1.23 billion. 

The health system said its charity care costs climbed 9.8 percent year over year to $665 million. The increase was primarily attributable to more patients qualifying for financial assistance, Ascension said. 

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