Ascension (healthcare system)

Ascension is one of the largest private healthcare systems in the United States, ranking second in the United States by number of hospitals as of 2019.[3] It was founded as a nonprofit Catholic healthcare network in 1999.[4]

TypeNonprofit organization
Founded1999; 24 years ago (1999)
HeadquartersSt. Louis, Missouri,
Number of locations
142 hospitals[1]
Key people
Joseph R. Impicciche President/Chief executive officer
ServicesHospital management
RevenueIncrease US$27.2 billion (2021)[2]
Increase US$676.3 million (2021)[2]
Increase US$5.7 billion (2021)[2]
Number of employees
142,000[1] (2021)

By the end of 2021, Ascension had 142,000 employees and 142 hospitals[1] and 40 senior living facilities across the United States.

Company overviewEdit

Ascension is the largest nonprofit and Catholic health system in the United States as of 2021. It operates more than 2,600 health care sites in 19 states and Washington, D.C., including 142 hospitals and 40 senior living facilities. It employs more than 142,000 people as of 2021.[5][6] Ascension had an operating revenue of $27.2 billion at the end of fiscal year 2021.[7] The company is led by president and CEO Joseph R. Impicciche and is headquartered in St. Louis, Missouri. at 4600 Edmundson Rd.[5]

In addition to health and senior care facilities, Ascension also operates a for-profit venture capital subsidiary called Ascension Ventures, which invests in medical startups.[8]


In 1999, the Daughters of Charity National Health System and Sisters of St. Joseph Health System merged to create Ascension Health.[4] In 2012, the company underwent a restructuring and rebranding, dropping the "Health" moniker and going forward as Ascension. In the process, the company brought its subsidiaries under a national umbrella and renamed all its hospitals to include the Ascension name, which the company hope would improve clients' understanding of the system.[9]

In 2014, the company partnered in opening the $2 billion Health City Cayman Islands project,[10] and sold its stake in 2017.[11]

In April 2016, a class-action lawsuit was brought in federal court, alleging that Ascension subsidiary Wheaton Franciscan Services (in Glendale, Wisconsin), erred by treating its pension plan as though it was a "church plan," exempt from the Employee Retirement Income Security Act ("ERISA"), a federal law governing employee pensions. In January, 2018, the parties announced a settlement, in which Ascension would pay $29.5 million to the plaintiffs.[12][13]

Ascension announced plans to make changes to its business model in 2018, shifting away from a hospital-oriented business to one prioritizing outpatient care and telemedicine. The move was made in response to decreased government reimbursements, reduced profit margins, and higher costs of care.[14]

In December 2018, the Attorney General of the District of Columbia brought suit against Ascension in an attempt to prevent the closure of the Providence Health System hospital, which served a low-income population but was financially unviable.[15] Though the D.C. city council specifically passed an ordinance to give the city the power to block the closing, the suit was ultimately withdrawn by the Attorney General after reviewing plans for the hospital's closure.[16]

In February, 2020, a jury awarded obstetrician/gynecologist Rebecca Denman, MD, $4.75 million in damages by an Indiana jury, after suing Ascension's St. Vincent Carmel Hospital and its St. Vincent Medical Group for defamation and fraud. The lawsuit arose from a December 2017 incident, in which Denman was accused of smelling like alcohol while on duty. Denman contended that she had been cheated out of the due process, as provided in the company substance-abuse policy, depriving her of a chance to establish her innocence, and retain her position.[17][18]

Near the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic in March 2020, some Ascension hospitals in Wisconsin told uninsured patients they would not be charged for testing or treatment of COVID-19.[19] Ascension drew some criticism for receiving some $211 million in relief payments despite having $15.5 billion in cash reserves, enough to operate for eight months. Ascension representatives responded by saying the payments were justified as the company had not laid-off or furloughed employees during the pandemic.[20]

In 2021, Ascension opened a pharmacy hub in Austin, Texas. The hub fills 5,000 prescriptions per shift and houses a "patient engagement center" designed to offer patients assistance with understanding their medication. Officials with the company have said they hope to reduce hospitalizations by improving at-home prescription management through the hub.[21] In October that year, Ascension and AdventHealth announced the planned dissolution of their joint venture AMITA Health in 2022. Each system will retain the hospitals they originally contributed to the partnership.[22]

Project NightingaleEdit

The Wall Street Journal reported on a collaboration between Ascension and Google in 2019 to share health information about its patients with the technology company. Known as Project Nightingale, the stated purpose of the collaboration was to make it easier for physicians to access and search their patient records.[23] The partnership drew criticism over privacy concerns and the potential for violations of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services opened an investigation into the project in 2020.[24][25] Cason Schmit, a professor of public health at Texas A&M University, noted that the Nightingale Project could improve health outcomes, especially by gathering data from minorities that are underrepresented in clinical studies, but also raised the lack of a patient opt-out and the Project's unclear transparency and accountability processes as concerns.[26]


In 2021, Ascension had 142 hospitals.[1] Several of them have been recognized for care, including cardiovascular by Fortune magazine and maternity by Newsweek. Among them, Ascension St. Vincent and Ascension Sacred Heart Hospital Pensacola.[27][28]

Community involvementEdit

Ascension launched the Medical Mission at Home program in 2007 in Tennessee as a method to expand care access to patients in need.[29] It's an annual one-day program serviced by volunteers and others that has expanded to other states.[30]  

In 2015, Ascension partnered with the St. Louis Chess Club and Scholastic Center to start the Your Move Chess Program in Ferguson, Missouri, to help the community following the shooting of Michael Brown. The organization has worked with grandmaster Alejandro Ramirez to teach children how to play chess.[31]

In 2021, Ascension partnered with PGA Tour Champions to hold the Ascension Charity Classic golf tournament in St. Louis. In its first year, the event raised more than $800,000 for the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater St. Louis, Marygrove, and the Urban League of Metropolitan St. Louis, among other groups.[32]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b c d Muoio, Dave (22 February 2022). "Ascension ekes out 0.2% operating margin amid COVID disruption and slowing federal relief". Fierce Healthcare. Retrieved 29 March 2022.
  2. ^ a b c Ellison, Ayla (2021-09-20). "Ascension bounces back with $5.7B net income". Becker's Hospital Review. Retrieved 2022-11-29.
  3. ^ "Largest hospitals and health systems in America | 2019". Beckers Hospital Review. Retrieved 2020-03-24.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  4. ^ a b "Our History". Retrieved 2020-03-24.
  5. ^ a b Barr, Diana (July 28, 2021). "Ascension to require employees receive Covid-19 vaccine". St. Louis Business Journal. Retrieved January 19, 2022.
  6. ^ Muoio, Dave (February 22, 2022). "Ascension ekes out 0.2% operating margin amid COVID disruption and slowing federal relief". Fierce Healthcare. Retrieved February 28, 2022.
  7. ^ Muoio, Dave (September 21, 2021). "Ascension latest nonprofit to rebound with $5.7B net income for 2021". Fierce Healthcare. Retrieved January 19, 2022.
  8. ^ Doyle, Jim (February 23, 2014). "How a St. Louis-based health care system became one of the nation's biggest". St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Retrieved October 11, 2021.
  9. ^ Kanski, Alison (October 24, 2016). "How Ascension's Nick Ragone is rebranding one of the biggest health systems in the U.S." PRWeek. Retrieved January 18, 2022.
  10. ^ Doyle, Jim. "How a St. Louis-based health care system became one of the nation's biggest". St Louis Post-Dispatch. Retrieved 2020-03-24.
  11. ^ "Ascension is unwinding its ownership role in Health City Cayman Islands". Catholic Health Association of the United States. Retrieved 2020-03-24.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  12. ^ "Federal judge approves Ascension Health's $29.5M settlement in class-action pension lawsuit," January 18th, 2018, Becker Hospital Review, retrieved March 30, 2020
  13. ^ Mueller, Angela (September 17, 2017). "Ascension settles lawsuit over pension plan exemption". St. Louis Business Journal. Retrieved January 19, 2022.
  14. ^ "As Ascension restructures, it hints at smaller hospital footprint". Modern Healthcare. 2018-03-22. Retrieved 2020-03-30.
  15. ^ Rege, Alyssa (17 December 2018). "Ascension sued by city officials to keep DC health system open". Becker's Hospital Review. Retrieved 7 May 2022.
  16. ^ Jamison, Peter (12 March 2019). "Providence Hospital on track to close as D.C. drops lawsuit". The Washington Post. Retrieved 30 March 2020.{{cite news}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  17. ^ D'Ambrosio, Amanda, "Doc Wins $4.75M in Fraud, Defamation Case Against Hospital — Ob/gyn said she was wrongly accused of substance abuse," February 5, 2020, MedPage Today, retrieved March 30, 2020
  18. ^ Stafford, Dave, "Jury finds against St. Vincent’s, awards wrongly accused doctor $4_75 million," January 17, 2020, The Indiana Lawyer, retrieved March 30, 2020
  19. ^ Spicuzza, Mary; Boulton, Guy (March 27, 2020). "Ascension Wisconsin will not bill uninsured patients for coronavirus tests, treatments". Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Retrieved January 20, 2022.
  20. ^ Drucker, Jesse; Silver-Greenberg, Jessica; Kliff, Sarah (May 25, 2020). "Wealthiest Hospitals Got Billions in Bailout for Struggling Health Providers". The New York Times. Retrieved October 11, 2021.
  21. ^ Villalpando, Nicole (June 17, 2021). "Ascension hospital system opens its national pharmacy hub in Austin". Austin American-Statesman. Retrieved January 19, 2022.
  22. ^ "After seven years, AMITA Health partnership breaking up," October 10, 2021, The Chicago Sun-Times retrieved January 12, 2022
  23. ^ Singer, Natasha; Wakabayashi, Daisuke (November 12, 2019). "Google to Store and Analyze Millions of Health Records". The New York Times. Retrieved October 11, 2021.
  24. ^ Copeland, Rob; Dana, Mattiloli; Evans, Melanie (January 11, 2020). "Inside Google's Quest for Millions of Medical Records". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved October 11, 2021.
  25. ^ Barber, Gregory (11 November 2019). "Google Is Slurping Up Health Data—and It Looks Totally Legal". Wired. Retrieved 13 April 2022.
  26. ^ Schmit, Cason (3 December 2019). "The tricky ethics of Google's Project Nightingale, an effort to learn from millions of health records". The Conversation. Retrieved 13 April 2022.
  27. ^ "The Fortune/IBM Watson Health 50 Top Cardiovascular Hospitals 2021". Fortune. November 16, 2021. Retrieved January 19, 2022.
  28. ^ "America's Best Maternity Hospitals 2022". Newsweek. May 11, 2022. Retrieved 27 Oct 2022.
  29. ^ Lagasse, Jeff (21 Sep 2016). "Ascension rebrands, renames hospitals, splits company into two divisions". Healthcare Finance. Retrieved 3 Nov 2022.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  30. ^ Minda, Julie (June 15, 2015). "Ascension expands Medical Mission at Home systemwide". Catholic Health World. Retrieved January 20, 2022.
  31. ^ Salter, Jim (May 24, 2016). "Amid turmoil, chess helps Ferguson kids cope, excel". Associated Press. Retrieved January 20, 2022.
  32. ^ "Inaugural Ascension Charity Classic raises $800,000 for nonprofits, surpassing projections". St. Louis Business Journal. October 20, 2021. Retrieved January 20, 2022.