The COVID-19 pandemic was hard on a lot of North Carolinians, resulting in job loss or reduced income. But for the major hospitals in the state, COVID resulted in billions of dollars of profit, according to a report from North Carolina State Treasurer Dale Folwell.

Folwell in a press release said, “Some things are worth getting mad about.  The hospital cartel is using taxpayer dollars to help crush the middle class and rob lower-income families of upward mobility. Wealthy hospitals took billions of taxpayer dollars meant to protect struggling hospitals – and then some billed poor families or even sued patients.”

The report states that the seven large hospital systems in the state, Atrium, Novant, UNC, Duke, Vidant Cone and WakeMed Health, recorded $5.2 billion in net profits in 2021, along with $7.1 billion growth in cash and investments from 2019 to 2021.

All of the large hospitals had record net profits, but Duke was number one with a 41 percent net profit in 2021.

The hospitals recorded these profits after taking $1.5 billion in taxpayer funded COVID relief money and another $1.6 billion in Medicare Accelerated and Advance Payments.

At the same time charity care spending fell for a third of the hospitals in 2020, while people were struggling with lockdowns, curfews, job losses and COVID.

Folwell said, “While health care workers suffered on the front lines, hospital executives made billions on Wall Street. None of these nonprofit systems pay any property, income or sales taxes. Many failed to honor their charitable mission even when thousands of North Carolinians lost their businesses and their jobs during the pandemic.”

Marilyn Bartlett, a senior policy fellow at the National Academy for State Health Policy (NASHP), said, “NASHP analysis has found that many health systems are in more prosperous positions now than before the pandemic. Having access to and analyzing data to understand hospital charges, prices, costs, investments, and liabilities is critical.”

Folwell is asking hospital systems that made these huge profits during the pandemic to either return the taxpayer dollars or to commit to reducing hospital price inflation.

Folwell said, “Hospital executives made record profits off the backs of sick people during the pandemic and decades before. We have a duty to make health care affordable for North Carolina families.  We have a duty to hold hospital executives accountable for wrecking the financial health of thousands of patients and transferring wealth from citizens to them.”