In the months and even years after COVID-19 struck, the economy sustained a massive toll. Lockdowns, employee illnesses, and supply chain interruptions left many businesses struggling to stay in business.
But there might have been one notable exception, according to a new report in the Journal of the American Medical Association Health Forum.
Raking in the dough
Even as hospital workers were being heralded as heroes (and rightfully so) for working on the front lines during the early days of the pandemic, there’s now evidence that many of the facilities that they were working for received a huge influx of federal cash.
That might have seemed warranted at the time since hospitals were being inundated with sick patients. In retrospect, however, there are some serious questions about where all of that taxpayer money actually went.
Here’s what the recent analysis found:
- About three-fourths of U.S. hospitals were reporting a profit during the pandemic’s peak.
- Operating margins reached an all-time high during 2020 and 2021.
- Of the more than half that didn’t need COVID-19 relief, 75% received it anyway.
Considering the fact that operating margins spiked from 2.8% before COVID-19 to 6.5% after, some activists and regulators are now starting to call for increased government accountability.
Are the good times over?
It’s worth noting that 2022 and 2023 operating margins aren’t included in the JAMA report, and early indicators suggest that last year was the toughest on hospitals since the pandemic started.
The American Hospital Association’s Aaron Wesolowki made this point in his reaction to the study, asserting: “Incomplete analyses like this are not reflective of the many immense struggles and challenges the hospital field has faced and continues to face.”
But as the analysts concluded, government funds did benefit “some hospitals that did not need financial support.”