Mass General Brigham posts steep operating loss in fiscal 2020

Mass General Brigham weathered a steep operating loss in its fiscal 2020 due to COVID-related volume declines, including two months of no elective procedures.

The Boston-based health system reported a $351 million operating loss in the year ended Sept. 30, 2020 on $14.1 billion in revenue, a -2.5% margin. That’s a noteworthy swing compared with its $381.8 million operating gain on $14 billion in revenue in fiscal 2019, a 2.7% margin.

Far and away the biggest contributor to that loss was the health system’s provider division, which was prohibited by the state of Massachusetts from performing non-essential procedures between March 18 and May 18 to preserve capacity and supplies for COVID patients.

Mass General Brigham, formerly known as Partners HealthCare, said it lost $745 million in net patient service revenue in the quarter that extended from April 1 to June 30 compared with the same period in 2019. Once volume started to return, that was partially offset by an increase of $120 million in the quarter ended September 30.

Mass General Brigham’s insurance arm reported a $44 million operating loss in fiscal 2020, a -5.2% margin, which the health system said was due to payments it had to make because of lower service utilization and investments made to increase health access. The health system’s insurance arm lost $27 million in 2019, a -3.3% margin.

To compensate for pandemic-related losses, Mass General Brigham said it put in place a hiring freeze and cut executive pay. It also reduced capital spending by about half, or about $550 million. The health system recognized $546 million worth of federal stimulus grants, and received about $1 billion in accelerated Medicare payments.

“We took every step we could to ensure that we had the financial resources available to weather unprecedented—and unknowable—demands that would be placed on health care organizations,” Peter Markell, Mass General Brigham’s chief financial officer, said in a statement.

Mass General Brigham’s inpatient discharges fell 6.4% year-over-year, while ambulatory visits declined almost 11%. Emergency room visits, the slowest to return, declined 15% in fiscal 2020.

The health system said it has treated more than 10,000 COVID patients in its hospitals since the pandemic began and opened more than 800 intensive care beds to meet demand.

“This past year has been like no other that we have seen in health care,” said Mass General Brigham CEO Dr. Anne Klibanski said in a statement. “Our organization brought nearly every clinical, scientific and community resource at our disposal to combat the pandemic.”

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