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The nation’s largest Catholic hospital system, a sprawling behemoth of more than 140 hospitals called Ascension, is quietly building an unprecedented and strikingly unusual $1 billion private equity operation, using its wealth to invest like a Wall Street firm, a STAT investigation has found.

Rather than passively investing in private equity funds, the practice of several major nonprofit hospitals, Ascension has over the past six years actively made investment decisions to play the private equity game itself, for profit.

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