Hospital margins 'well below sustainable levels': Kaufman Hall

Hospitals across the U.S. saw their operating margins remain negative for the second consecutive month in February as they continued to feel the repercussions of the winter omicron surge, according to Kaufman Hall's "National Hospital Flash Report: March 2022" posted March 28.

The median operating margin in February was -3.45 percent, up from -4.52 percent in January, but "still well below sustainable levels," Kaufman Hall said. 

Kaufman Hall said the improvement in hospital margin was driven by disproportionate increases among several hospitals that saw margin gains, but most hospitals reported margin declines in February. Specifically, the median operating margin was down 11.8 percent month over month.

"The second month of 2022 brought further challenges for the nation's hospitals and health systems," Kaufman Hall said. "Overall, the year is off to a difficult start."

Kaufman Hall noted that patient days were down 13.3 percent month over month, and fewer severely ill COVID-19 patients also contributed to shorter hospital stays as the average length of stay dropped 5.3 percent month over month. 

Hospitals' gross operating revenue also decreased 7.4 percent compared to January 2022, with outpatient revenue falling 5 percent and inpatient revenue declining 19.3 percent.

Kaufman Hall noted that hospitals saw some improvement month over month in terms of expenses. Total expenses per adjusted discharge fell 4.5 percent compared to January, labor expense per adjusted discharge fell 6.1 percent and non-labor expenses per adjusted discharge was down 3.6 percent. However, Kaufman Hall noted that year over year, expenses are still up significantly, with total adjusted expense per adjusted discharge rising 10.4 percent compared to February 2021.

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