The COVID-19 pandemic killed enough terminally ill people in the fourth quarter of 2021, and in all of 2021, that it had a small but noticeable effect on hospice admissions volumes, according to Humana executives.
The executives mentioned that grim effect of the pandemic Wednesday on a conference call the company held to go over earnings for the fourth quarter of 2021 with securities analysts.
The Louisville, Kentucky-based health insurer became actively involved in providing hospice services in August, when it acquired complete control of Kindred at Home, the largest U.S. home health and hospice provider, from joint venture partners.
Bruce Broussard, Humana’s CEO, noted on the analyst call that the company is working to sell a majority stake in the hospice business to another owner or owners.
Susan Diamond, Humana’s chief financial officer, said the integration of the Kindred at Homes operations is on track, despite the impact of the pandemic.
Home health care services admissions were up in the “low single digits,” or somewhere under 5%, between the fourth quarter of 2020 and the fourth quarter of 2021 and between all of 2020 and all of 2021, Diamond said.
In the fourth quarter of 2021, “hospice experienced a low single-digit decline as compared to the fourth quarter of 2020,” and, for all of 2021, “hospice admissions were down low single single digits, year-over-year,” she added.
“It is important to note that hospice volumes have been impacted by the higher mortality rates driven by COVID, as well as by lower post-acute facility volumes,” Diamond said.