Nursing Home Corporations are Beginning to Release Fourth Quarter Earnings. Are their Hardship Pleas Merited? Or is it Propaganda?

The Ensign Group, Inc. (Nasdaq: ENSG) has Reported Robust Fourth Quarter Earnings – Now We Need to Discuss How Well They Protected Patients in Their Care from COVID

The information in this post is based on a conference call and webcast on February 4, 2021 at 10:00 A.M. PT (  When Ensign’s annual 10-K report is available, we will analyze all quarterly reports and their annual results to determine their overall 2020 performance.  We are interested in the amount of revenue the corporation received in the form of CARES Act grants/loans and other subsidization from various federal departments (e.g., HHS, IRS, etc.).

During the 4th quarter (Oct, Nov, Dec), the COVID pandemic spiked to levels unseen prior to that time.  Here are a few highlights from the Ensign release of 4th quarter results, which includes annual results:

  1. Earnings per share of $0.82 represent an increase of 67.3% over the prior year quarter.

  2. Earnings per share of $3.06 represent an increase of 86.6% over the prior year.

  3. Revenue of $2.4 billion for the year is an increase of 18.3% over the prior year.

  4. Medicare days increased by 22.1% over the prior year; hence, skilled revenue increased by 14.7% over the prior year.

  5. Real estate segment income of $31.3 million is an increase of 79.2% from the prior year.

  6. 2020 net income of 174.6 million is an increase of 74.8% over 2019. Fourth quarter earnings of $44.9 million represents an increase of 33.9% over the 4th quarter of 2019.

Although Ensign stock crashed with the rest of the market in mid-March 2020, it has recovered and has been trading in the low $80s.  It closed on Friday, February 5, 2021 at $83.82.  Analysts have rated it as “strong buy” (

CEO Barry Port had the following to say about 2020 operating results: “In spite of the continued challenges brought on as the result of the ongoing global pandemic, we are very happy to report another record quarter as we achieved our highest earnings per share in our history.”  He went on to praise the performance of “local teams” in protecting patients from COVID-19.

Whether The Ensign Group Deserves Praise for its Protection of Patients from COVID Remains to be Seen.  What Happened in Kansas City is not Strong Evidence that the Company Placed Care Over Extraction of Cash.

I must say that reading Port’s glowing report of Ensign’s infection and disease control effectiveness, I’m experiencing cognitive dissonance.  Last April, The Ensign Group’s Riverbend facility in Kansas City, KS began to appear in the local media as something of a poster child for COVID-19 deaths in nursing homes (e.g., Laura Bauer, “Two more COVID-19 deaths at Riverbend nursing facility in KCK reported Sunday,”

In January of 202 – prior to public awareness of the severity of the pandemic – the Riverbend facility received the lowest rating of 1 out of 5 stars on the CMS Nursing Home Compare website.  The facility was cited for lack of infectious disease control.  Apparently, fixing that problem was not a high priority for the company. As early as January, the world was becoming aware of a novel virus that could become a deadly pandemic outside of China’s borders.

I was interviewed by Fox4 News regarding the Riverbend situation and the nursing home industry in general. My words were reduced to rather meaningless soundbites.  Unfortunately, local and national media are not geared these days to in-depth research and analysis.  After focusing on the scandalous Riverbend deaths for a short period of time, the media jumped to the next scandal and then to the next scandal and on and on – from scandal to scandal.  No adequate analysis of the overall industry has been forthcoming.  Hence, Mark Parkinson and the AHCA can get away with claiming that the industry couldn’t afford to do any better than they have done.

Will the industry escape accountability for the deaths of people entrusted to its care?  Will our government, media, and the public just move on with no serious inquest into how corporations could remain profitable while they allowed perhaps 200,000 people in their facilities needlessly suffer and die? I’m horrified by the thought that the answer to these questions will be yes.  I’m not hearing much interest in pulling back the curtain on the opaque finances of the closely held corporations paid with Medicare and Medicaid dollars to determine what they could have and should have done to protect their patients.

By Dave Kingsley