Connecticut hospitals racked up nearly $1.48 billion in profit in 2021 – mySA

Eighteen months into the COVID-19 pandemic, Connecticut hospital assets shot up 30 percent to just over $10 billion in the aggregate — their healthiest financial cushion on record.

The Connecticut Office of Health Strategy tracks finances for acute-care hospitals, which report for fiscal years that begin each October to align with federal calendars. Connecticut state government uses a July start to the fiscal year.

For the 2021 federal fiscal year that included the initial vaccination drive for COVID-19, Connecticut hospitals racked up nearly $1.48 billion in “profits” — revenue exceeding their expenses.

Roughly $400 million of hospital revenue gains was in the form of federal and state grants to help hospitals cope with the COVID-19 pandemic. But parent organizations tallied about $800 million more from last year’s stock market surge that helped pad their overall assets, including pension plans.

With the markets having ebbed since, hospitals could see a tandem decline in assets for the 2022 federal fiscal year that ends this month.

Surgical procedures plunged after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, as people minimized their odds of contracting the virus. But many went ahead with those procedures in 2021, according to Ron Ciesones, an analyst with the Office of Health Strategy, who spoke Tuesday during a meeting of Gov. Ned Lamont’s health care cabinet.

“Inpatient surgeries continued to decrease a little bit,” Ciesones said Tuesday. “But outpatient surgeries did increase about 17 percent.”

The aggregate gains in assets included a trio of health systems that generated deficits for the 2021 fiscal year: UConn Health, Bristol Hospital and Prospect Medical. Yale New Haven Health is in the process of acquiring the Waterbury, Manchester Memorial and Rockville General hospitals owned by Prospect, which is operated on a for-profit basis.

Yale New Haven Health is already the largest hospital system in the state, with $4.5 billion in assets across Yale New Haven Hospital, Bridgeport Hospital, Greenwich Hospital and Lawrence + Memorial Hospital in New London, as well as Westerly Hospital in Rhode Island.

In addition to the medical services they coordinate, hospitals impact the state in two other major ways — as employers and taxpayers. For the state fiscal year ending in June 2021, 26 Connecticut hospital groups paid $912 million in taxes to the state, nearly a 5 percent increase from fiscal 2020 but roughly in line with prior years. Hospitals pay a 6 percent tax for inpatient services to the Connecticut Department of Revenue Services, and 12.1 percent for outpatient care.

Acute-care hospitals added the equivalent of 840 full-time jobs last year to push their total to just over 54,000 jobs, according to OHS surveys. Hospitals and health clinics continue to top the Connecticut Department of Labor’s monthly analysis of job postings, with more than 17,800 openings in August.

For the state fiscal year ending this past June, Connecticut provided $1.25 billion to hospitals and other health entities through varying programs and assistance, accounting for 6.1 percent of the state budget. Speaking Tuesday, the executive director of the Connecticut Health Policy Project pressed OHS for more detailed data on hospital expenses, with the goal of finding ways to ensure that state prioritize its resources for the institutions and practice areas with the biggest needs.

“There are hospitals that need help — but there are other hospitals that are doing just fine,” said Ellen Andrews, executive director of the Connecticut Health Policy Project which advocates for reforms. “Smaller hospitals are still struggling and they are a critical part of our market.”

Alex.Soule@scni.com; @casoulman

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