My, How the Margins Have Fallen

By David Burda, News Editor & Columnist, 4sight Health
LinkedIn: David R. Burda
LinkedIn: 4sight Health
X: @davidrburda

About this time last year, I wrote about record profit margins that hospitals posted in 2021, according to data from the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission’s (MedPAC) annual March report to Congress. At the end of that blog post, I said hospital lobbyists will tell us that things were different in 2022, and that I’d look at this year’s MedPAC report to find out.

I did, and the hospital lobbyists were right. Hospital profitability crashed in 2022, according to MedPAC’s March 2024 report.

Here’s the ugly financial news:

  • Hospitals’ all-payer operating profit margin plummeted to 2.7% in 2022 from a record 8.8% in 2021. That included about $9 billion in COVID-19 relief funds in 2022 compared with $18 billion in COVID-19 relief funds in 2021.
  • Excluding those relief funds, hospitals’ all-payer operating profit margin dropped to 1.9% in 2022 from a record 7.3% in 2021.
  • If you were a “relatively efficient” hospital, your median all-payer operating profit margin with relief funds was 4% in 2022. That’s compared with an 11% all-payer total profit margin in 2021.
  • Hospitals’ Medicare-only profit margin fell to -11.6% in 2022 from -6.1% in 2021 with relief funds, and to -12.7% from -8.1% without relief funds.

MedPAC attributed the drop in hospital profitability to the reason all businesses in any industry suffer lower profits: Their expenses rose faster than their revenues.

“These low all-payer and FFS Medicare margins were largely driven by higher-than-expected input price inflation in 2022,” MedPAC said.

Some positive clinical news offset the bleak financial news in 2022 compared with 2021:

  • Inpatient stays per 1,000 Medicare beneficiaries dropped to 202 from 208.
  • The risk-adjusted inpatient mortality rate for a Medicare beneficiary dropped to 8.1% from 8.6%.
  • The risk-adjusted 30-day readmission rate for a Medicare beneficiary slipped to 14.7% from 14.8%.

Strange how that worked in 2022. Better outcomes with less profit. Go figure.

Thanks for reading.

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This article was originally published on 4sight Health and is republished here with permission.