Midweek Update

Photo by Piron Guillaume on Unsplash

The Hill reports that “New coronavirus cases in the U.S. have fallen to pre-Thanksgiving levels, the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said Wednesday, and infection rates are continuing to decline. ‘We now appear to be in a consistent downward trajectory’ for both cases and hospital admissions, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky told reporters during a White House COVID-19 briefing.” * * * Walensky cautioned Americans not to let their guard down, especially as variants that likely have increased transmissibility continue to multiply.”

Roll Call informs us that “The Senate broke out of limbo Wednesday, adopting a power-sharing resolution that allows for committees to organize and Democrats to take the [committee] gavels after a month of tenuous and divided control. Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer brought the resolution to the floor Wednesday evening and it was adopted by unanimous consent.”

From the fourth quarter 2020 earnings front, Healthcare Dive lets us know that

  • An uptick in COVID-19 testing and treatment led Humana to report a loss for the fourth quarter of 2020 of $2.07 per share and a pre-tax loss of $458 million, a large swing from a pre-tax income of $593 million during the prior-year period. Analysts had expected an adjusted loss of $2.37 per share, but Humana slightly beat expectations with an adjusted loss of $2.30 per share. The payer said the increase in COVID-19 care experienced during the last two months of the quarter was coupled with a decline in non-COVID-19 utilization after largely returning to normal levels. The decline was about 15% below the normal baseline, executives said during Wednesday’s call with investors. Still, Humana remained in the black for the full year of 2020. It posted pre-tax income of $4.6 billion for the full year, a 33% increase compared with 2019.


  • HCA Healthcare beat Wall Street expectations on both earnings and revenue in the fourth quarter of 2020, as high-acuity patients and cost controls made up for a slow recovery in volume during the strongest surge in COVID-19 patients to date. [From HCA’s website: HCA Healthcare is comprised of more than 180 hospitals and 2,000+ sites of care in 21 states and the United Kingdom.] Revenue of $14.3 billion was up almost 6% year over year, while net income of $1.4 billion was up 33% year over year for the for-profit system, according to financial results released Tuesday. HCA released full-year guidance for 2021, and expects to bring in revenue between $53.5 billion and $55.5 billion this year, and adjusted earnings per share of $12.10 to $13.10. HCA stock was up slightly in early morning trading following the release.

In healthcare news

  • The Government Accountability Office recently released a report on public impact of rural hospital closings.

Rural hospitals provide essential health care to rural communities. Yet, over 100 rural hospitals closed from January 2013-February 2020. When rural hospitals closed, people living in areas that received health care from them had to travel farther to get the same health care services—about 20 miles farther for common services like inpatient care. People had to travel even farther—about 40 miles—for less common services like alcohol or drug abuse treatment. Before rural hospitals closed, counties where these hospitals were located had fewer doctors than counties without any closures. The number of doctors further decreased when hospitals closed.

Heal, a company that offers both telemedicine and doctor house calls, has expanded its service to Illinois, Louisiana, North Carolina and South Carolina. In addition to large cities such as Chicago, Heal is targeting rural or low-income areas such as Lafayette, Louisiana, noted Nick Desai, co-founder and CEO of Heal.

“When you look at specific areas where we are expanding, for example, Lafayette, Louisiana, many of these patients do not have other options when it comes to quality healthcare,” Desai told Fierce Healthcare. “That’s why we want to bring Heal to areas like this, ultimately elevating quality of care for patients that might be struggling to pinpoint the right solutions.”

  • The Healthcare Transformation Taskforce calls our attention to the Maternal Health Hub website which The Commonwealth Fund supports and the Task Force manages. Check it out.

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