Major for-profit hospital chains reported patient volumes bouncing back in the first quarter and were generally optimistic for the remainder of 2021, as all but one posted profits.
Universal Health Services even said it would be returning coronavirus relief funds for the quarter, although it's keeping the aid it put on the books last year. HCA Healthcare has already said it is returning the entire $6 billion of its allotment.
Though Tenet, UHS and HCA all saw net income growth in Q1 (with the latter more than doubling its profit year over year), Community Health Services was the outlier, lagging in the quarter and ending up in the red due to weak volumes. The company did, however, beat Wall Street expectations on revenue.
Still, Kaufman Hall reported that margins for hospitals remained narrow in March and much uncertainty remains. The consultancy said it expects the effects of the pandemic this year to cause hospitals to lose somewhere between $53 billion and $122 billion compared to normal levels.
Another theme for the quarter was higher acuity, as January and February in particular still saw high case levels of COVID-19.
Most hospital executives told investors in their earnings calls that they were cautiously optimistic. "While we continue to experience residual effects from the COVID-19 virus, the net impact on lost revenues and incremental expenses in 2021 has not been nearly as severe as it was in 2020," UHS CEO Mark Miller said.
Here's a look at how for-profit hospital operators performed in Q1.