5 health systems hit with credit downgrades

Credit rating downgrades for several health systems were tied to capital expenditures and cash flow issues in recent months.

The following five health system credit rating downgrades occurred since July:  

1. Tower Health (West Reading, Pa.) — lowered in September from “B+” to “CCC+” (Fitch Ratings) 
“The three-notch downgrade to ‘CCC+’ reflects Tower’s ongoing significant financial losses in fiscal 2022 … with an operating loss of $195 million, or a negative 1.8% operating EBITDA margin,” Fitch said. “Tower Health’s unrestricted liquidity position is also rapidly weakening, falling to just $341.5 million (when excluding $27.9 million in Medicare Advance funding), which results in a very weak cash-to-debt ratio of just 19%.”

2. ProMedica (Toledo, Ohio) — lowered in September from “Baa3” to “Ba2” (Moody’s Investors Service)
“The downgrade to ‘Ba2’ reflects material cashflow losses this year, which exceeded Moody’s prior expectations, a significant drain of liquidity even with one-time cash infusions, and narrowing headroom to quarterly bank covenants,” Moody’s said. “In addition to severe losses in the nursing home and assisted living business, the provider business will need to reverse the year-to-date cashflow loss following solid margins in fiscal 2021. Both operations will continue to be challenged by high labor costs and related capacity constraints.” 

3. Premier Health (Dayton, Ohio) — lowered in September from “A” to “A-” (Fitch Ratings)
“The downgrade of [Premier Health’s] revenue bond rating and IDR to ‘A-‘ is driven by multiple years of weak operating cash flow generation … and coronavirus pandemic-related operating challenges that delayed the realization of improvements expected at Fitch’s last review,” the credit rating agency said. 

4. MultiCare (Tacoma, Wash.) — lowered in August from “Aa3” to “A1” (Moody’s Investors Service) 
“The downgrade to A1 and the revision of the outlook to negative reflect a number of pressures which weaken MultiCare’s credit profile, including: an unexpected 24% increase in debt; a material decline in liquidity; very significant operating losses through the first six months of fiscal 2022; a pending acquisition which would initially be dilutive to credit metrics; and an ambitious capital plan which will entail sizable capital expenditures over the next five years,” Moody’s said. “Operations are expected to improve through the second half of fiscal 2022, but nevertheless full year results will remain weak, providing at best thin headroom to MultiCare’s debt service coverage covenant.” 

5. Memorial Health System (Marietta, Ohio) — lowered in July from “BB-” to “B+” (Fitch Ratings)
“The downgrade of the IDR to ‘B+’ reflects MHS’s weak net leverage profile through Fitch’s forward-looking scenario analysis given stated growth and spending objectives,” Fitch said. “While operating performance has stabilized over the past three years … and reflects cost efficiency strategies and pandemic relief funding, improved cash flow funded higher levels of capital spending in fiscals 2020 and 2021.”

MultiCare hit with credit downgrade

Moody’s Investors Service has downgraded MultiCare Health System’s revenue bonds to “A1” from “Aa3,” and revised the health system’s rating outlook to negative from stable. 

Moody’s said the downgrade and the revision of the outlook to negative reflect several pressures that weaken the health system’s credit profile, including an unexpected 24 percent increase in debt, a decline in liquidity and significant operating losses through the first six months of fiscal 2022. 

“Operations are expected to improve through the second half of fiscal 2022, but nevertheless full year results will remain weak, providing at best thin headroom to MultiCare’s debt service coverage covenant,” Moody’s said. 

Moody’s noted that MultiCare, an 11-hospital system based in Tacoma, Wash., will continue to benefit from several strengths, including a large and growing revenue base and strong clinical offerings.

Hospitals experiencing some of the worst margins since beginning of pandemic: Kaufman Hall

https://www.fiercehealthcare.com/providers/julys-hospital-margins-were-among-worst-pandemic-kaufman-hall-says

Despite a a seventh straight month of industrywide negative margins, “hospitals and health systems must think strategically and make investments to strengthen performance toward long-term institutional goals despite the day-to-day financial challenges they experience,” Kaufman Hall’s Erik Swanson said.

Months of inching performance gains were upended in July as the nation’s hospitals logged “some of the worst margins since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Kaufman Hall wrote in its latest industry report.

Decreasing outpatient revenues paired with pricier inpatient stays were chief among the culprits and outpaced minor improvements in expenses, the group wrote in its monthly sector update for July.

What’s more, seven straight months of negative margins “reversed any gains hospitals saw this year” and has the advisory group forecasting a brutal year for the industry.

“July was a disappointing month for hospitals and put 2022 on pace to be the worst financial year hospitals have experienced in a long time,” Erik Swanson, senior vice president of data and analytics with Kaufman Hall, said in a statement. “Over the past few years, hospitals and health systems have been able to offset some financial hardship with federal support, but those funding sources have dried up, and hospitals’ bottom lines remain in the red.”

Kaufman Hall placed its median year-to-date operating margin index at -0.98% through July, compared to the -0.09% from January to June the group had reported during last month’s report. Hospitals’ median percent change in operating margin from June to July was -63.9%, according to the report, and -73.6% from July 2021.

The month’s volume trends hinted at the larger shift toward scheduling procedures for ambulatory settings, Kaufman Hall wrote. For instance, operating room minutes declined 10.3% from June to July and 7.7% year over year, according to the report.

Patients who did come into the hospital tended to be sicker, the firm continued. Average length of stay increased 2% from last month and 3.4% year over year. Patient days increased 2.8% from the previous month but were down 2.6% from the prior year, while adjusted discharges dipped 2.8% from June and 4.2% from July 2021.  

These trends came together as a brake check on 2022’s to-date revenue gains. Gross operating revenue fell 3.6% from June but remains up 5.5% year to date. Outpatient revenue was down 4.8% from June and maintains a 7.1% year-to-date increase. Inpatient revenue declined 0.7% from June but is still up 3.6% year to date.

The silver lining in Kaufman Hall’s report were total expenses that, although up 7.6% from July 2021, saw a modest 0.4% decline since June. Those savings came squarely among supply and drug expenses as total labor costs and labor expense per adjusted discharge still grew 0.8% and 3.5%, respectively, since June. Increases in full-time employees per adjusted occupied bed “possibly” suggest increased hiring, the group wrote in the report.

Kaufman Hall acknowledged the “urgency of day-to-day pressures” driving the month’s sudden performance dips but urged hospital leaders to prioritize long-term operational improvements as they work to keep the organization afloat.

“2022 has been, and will likely continue to be, a challenging year for hospitals and health systems, but it would not be prudent to focus on short-term solutions at the expense of long-term planning,” Swanson said. “Hospitals and health systems must think strategically and make investments to strengthen performance toward long-term institutional goals despite the day-to-day financial challenges they experience.”

Kaufman Hall’s monthly reports are based on a sample of more than 900 nationally representative hospitals.

The group isn’t alone in its doom-and-gloom warnings for providers. Fitch Ratings recently wrote that high expenses, jilted volume gains and other challenges are unlikely to resolve before the end of the year. As such, the agency downgraded its outlook for the nonprofit hospital industry from “neutral” to “deteriorating.”

Read the full report here

6 hospitals hit with credit downgrades

Credit rating downgrades for several hospitals and health systems were tied to capital expenditures and cash flow issues in recent months.

The following six hospital and health system credit rating downgrades occurred since June: 

  • Boone Hospital Center (Columbia, Mo.) — lowered in August from “Ba1” to “Ba3” (Moody’s Investors Service) 
    “The downgrade to ‘Ba3’ reflects the continued and material deterioration of unrestricted cash, along with simultaneous operational challenges facing BHC,” Moody’s said. “Operating headwinds, along with recent turnover in senior management, will contribute to challenges in attaining performance improvements. These headwinds will include elevated labor and supply costs, partly raised by supply chain system implementation issues, and volume disruption, which has been exacerbated by the on-going pandemic, as well as the absence of state or federal funds in 2022.”
  • Jackson Hospital (Montgomery, Ala.) — lowered in August from “Baa3” to “Ba3” (Moody’s Investors Service) 
    “The downgrade to ‘Ba3’ reflects Jackson Hospital & Clinic’s material and recent deterioration of operating performance and unrestricted cash through June 2022,” Moody’s said. “As a result, headroom to both the debt service coverage and days cash on hand covenants has been materially reduced increasing the risk of a covenant violation, which could lead to immediate acceleration of debt, a governance consideration under our ESG framework.”
  • Memorial Health System (Marietta, Ohio) — lowered in July from “BB-” to “B+” (Fitch Ratings)
    “The downgrade of the IDR to ‘B+’ reflects MHS’s weak net leverage profile through Fitch’s forward-looking scenario analysis given stated growth and spending objectives,” Fitch said. “While operating performance has stabilized over the past three years … and reflects cost efficiency strategies and pandemic relief funding, improved cash flow funded higher levels of capital spending in fiscals 2020 and 2021.”
  • Doylestown (Pa.) Hospital — lowered in June from “Ba1” to “Ba3” (Moody’s Investors Service)
    “The downgrade to Ba3 reflects Doylestown Hospital’s … significant and recent decline in operating performance and unrestricted cash reserves through fiscal 2022, which have materially reduced headroom to the days cash on hand covenant (100 days) and increases the risk of an event of default and immediate acceleration as soon as June 30, 2022, a governance consideration under our ESG framework,” Moody’s said.
  • Jupiter (Fla.) Medical Center — lowered in June from “BBB+” to “BBB” (Fitch Ratings)
    “The ‘BBB’ rating reflects JMC’s increased leverage profile with the issuance of $150 million in additional debt to fund various campus expansion and improvement projects,” Fitch said. “While favorable population growth in the service area and demonstrated demand for services in an increasingly competitive market justify the overall strategic plan and project, the additional debt weakens JMC’s financial profile metrics and increases the overall risk profile.”
  • South Shore Hospital (South Weymouth, Mass.) — lowered in June from “BBB+” to “BBB” (Fitch Ratings)
    “The downgrade to ‘BBB’ reflects SSH’s track record of very weak operating performance over the last four fiscal years, exacerbated by staffing shortages and other pandemic-related challenges, which are stymying the system’s efforts towards an operational turnaround,” Fitch said.

6 hospitals hit with credit downgrades

Credit rating downgrades for several hospitals and health systems were tied to capital expenditures and cash flow issues in recent months.

The following six hospital and health system credit rating downgrades occurred since May: 

  • Doylestown (Pa.) Hospital — lowered in June from “Ba1” to “Ba3” (Moody’s Investors Service)
    “The downgrade to Ba3 reflects Doylestown Hospital’s … significant and recent decline in operating performance and unrestricted cash reserves through fiscal 2022, which have materially reduced headroom to the days cash on hand covenant (100 days) and increases the risk of an event of default and immediate acceleration as soon as June 30, 2022, a governance consideration under our ESG framework,” Moody’s said.
  • Jupiter (Fla.) Medical Center — lowered in June from “BBB+” to “BBB” (Fitch Ratings)
    “The ‘BBB’ rating reflects JMC’s increased leverage profile with the issuance of $150 million in additional debt to fund various campus expansion and improvement projects,” Fitch said. “While favorable population growth in the service area and demonstrated demand for services in an increasingly competitive market justify the overall strategic plan and project, the additional debt weakens JMC’s financial profile metrics and increases the overall risk profile.”
  • Memorial Health System (Marietta, Ohio) — lowered in July from “BB-” to “B+” (Fitch Ratings)
    “The downgrade of the IDR to ‘B+’ reflects MHS’s weak net leverage profile through Fitch’s forward-looking scenario analysis given stated growth and spending objectives,” Fitch said. “While operating performance has stabilized over the past three years … and reflects cost efficiency strategies and pandemic relief funding, improved cash flow funded higher levels of capital spending in fiscals 2020 and 2021.”
  • ProMedica (Toledo, Ohio) — lowered in May from “BBB-” to “BB+” (Fitch Ratings)
    “The long-term ‘BB+’ rating and the assigned outlook to negative on ProMedica Health System’s debt reflects the system’s significant financial challenges as result of continued pressure of the coronavirus pandemic and escalating expenses, with ProMedica reporting a $252 million operating loss that follows several years of weak performance,” Fitch said.
  • San Gorgonio Memorial Healthcare District (Banning, Calif.) — lowered in May from “Ba1” to “Ba2” (Moody’s Investors Service)
    “The downgrade to Ba2 reflects the district’s tenuous cash position and weak finances that have contributed to difficulty in securing a bridge loan financing for liquidity needs pending the delayed receipt of approximately $8 million to $9 million in intergovernmental transfers beyond the end of the fiscal year,” Moody’s said. 
  • South Shore Hospital (South Weymouth, Mass.) — lowered in June from “BBB+” to “BBB” (Fitch Ratings)
    “The downgrade to ‘BBB’ reflects SSH’s track record of very weak operating performance over the last four fiscal years, exacerbated by staffing shortages and other pandemic-related challenges, which are stymying the system’s efforts towards an operational turnaround,” Fitch said.

Fitch: Outlook is negative for CHS

Fitch Ratings has affirmed the “B-” long-term issuer default ratings of Franklin, Tenn.-based Community Health Systems, and revised the company’s rating outlook to negative from stable. 

The credit rating agency said the negative outlook reflects operating performance deterioration in the first half of this year, with significant increases in labor costs. Higher costs, weakness in volumes and acuity mix drove a downturn in the for-profit company’s revenue, resulting in a reduction in its financial guidance for this year, Fitch said. 

CHS ended the first six months of this year with a net loss of $327 million on revenues of $6.04 billion. In the first half of 2021, the company posted a net loss of $58 million on revenues of $6.02 billion.

Fitch noted that CHS still benefits from its strengthened liquidity and balance sheet after several debt refinancing and exchange transactions. CHS also benefits from investments in outpatient care and higher-acuity inpatient services, the credit rating agency said. 

7 hospitals hit with credit downgrades

Credit rating downgrades for several hospitals and health systems were tied to cash flow issues in recent months. 

The following seven hospital and health system credit rating downgrades occurred since February: 

1. Jupiter (Fla.) Medical Center — lowered in June from “BBB+” to “BBB” (Fitch Ratings)
“The ‘BBB’ rating reflects JMC’s increased leverage profile with the issuance of $150 million in additional debt to fund various campus expansion and improvement projects,” Fitch said. “While favorable population growth in the service area and demonstrated demand for services in an increasingly competitive market justify the overall strategic plan and project, the additional debt weakens JMC’s financial profile metrics and increases the overall risk profile.” 

2. ProMedica (Toledo, Ohio) — lowered in May from “BBB-” to “BB+” (Fitch Ratings)
“The long-term ‘BB+’ rating and the assigned outlook to negative on ProMedica Health System’s debt reflects the system’s significant financial challenges as result of continued pressure of the coronavirus pandemic and escalating expenses, with ProMedica reporting a $252 million operating loss that follows several years of weak performance,” Fitch said. 

3. Providence (Renton, Wash.) — lowered in April from “Aa3” to to “A1” (Moody’s Investors Service); lowered from “AA-” to “A+” (Fitch Ratings)
“The downgrade to ‘A1’ is driven by the disaffiliation with Hoag Hospital, and the expectation that weaker operating, balance sheet, and debt measures will continue for the time being,” Moody’s said.

4. San Gorgonio Memorial Healthcare District (Banning, Calif.) — lowered in May from “Ba1” to “Ba2” (Moody’s Investors Service)
“The downgrade to Ba2 reflects the district’s tenuous cash position and weak finances that have contributed to difficulty in securing a bridge loan financing for liquidity needs pending the delayed receipt of approximately $8 million to $9 million in intergovernmental transfers beyond the end of the fiscal year,” Moody’s said. 

5. Willis-Knighton Medical Center (Shreveport, La.) — lowered in March from “A1” to “A2” (Moody’s Investors Service)
“The downgrade to A2 reflects expectations that Willis-Knighton will continue to face challenges in achieving budgeted operating cash flow margins due to heightened wage pressures and volume softness,” Moody’s said. 

6. OU Health (Oklahoma City) — lowered in March from “Baa3” to “Ba2” (Moody’s Investors Service)
“The magnitude of the downgrade to Ba2 reflects projected cashflow in fiscal 2022 that will be materially below prior expectations, from an escalation of labor costs, and reliance on a financing to avoid a further decline in already weak liquidity and potential covenant breach,” Moody’s said. “Also, the rating action reflects execution risk given a prolonged period of management turnover with several key positions unfilled or filled with interim leaders, a governance consideration under Moody’s ESG classification.”

7. Catholic Health System (Buffalo, N.Y.) — lowered in February from “Baa2” to “B1” (Moody’s Investors Service) 
“The downgrade to ‘B1’ anticipates minimal cashflow and a further significant decline in liquidity this year, following material losses in fiscal 2021 from a 40-day labor strike and the disproportionately severe impact of the pandemic, both social risks under Moody’s ESG classification,” the credit rating agency said. 

7 hospitals hit with credit downgrades

Credit rating downgrades for several hospitals and health systems were tied to cash flow issues in recent months. 

The following seven hospital and health system credit rating downgrades occurred since February: 

1. Jupiter (Fla.) Medical Center — lowered in June from “BBB+” to “BBB” (Fitch Ratings)
“The ‘BBB’ rating reflects JMC’s increased leverage profile with the issuance of $150 million in additional debt to fund various campus expansion and improvement projects,” Fitch said. “While favorable population growth in the service area and demonstrated demand for services in an increasingly competitive market justify the overall strategic plan and project, the additional debt weakens JMC’s financial profile metrics and increases the overall risk profile.” 

2. ProMedica (Toledo, Ohio) — lowered in May from “BBB-” to “BB+” (Fitch Ratings)
“The long-term ‘BB+’ rating and the assigned outlook to negative on ProMedica Health System’s debt reflects the system’s significant financial challenges as result of continued pressure of the coronavirus pandemic and escalating expenses, with ProMedica reporting a $252 million operating loss that follows several years of weak performance,” Fitch said. 

3. Providence (Renton, Wash.) — lowered in April from “Aa3” to to “A1” (Moody’s Investors Service); lowered from “AA-” to “A+” (Fitch Ratings)
“The downgrade to ‘A1’ is driven by the disaffiliation with Hoag Hospital, and the expectation that weaker operating, balance sheet, and debt measures will continue for the time being,” Moody’s said.

4. San Gorgonio Memorial Healthcare District (Banning, Calif.) — lowered in May from “Ba1” to “Ba2” (Moody’s Investors Service)
“The downgrade to Ba2 reflects the district’s tenuous cash position and weak finances that have contributed to difficulty in securing a bridge loan financing for liquidity needs pending the delayed receipt of approximately $8 million to $9 million in intergovernmental transfers beyond the end of the fiscal year,” Moody’s said. 

5. Willis-Knighton Medical Center (Shreveport, La.) — lowered in March from “A1” to “A2” (Moody’s Investors Service)
“The downgrade to A2 reflects expectations that Willis-Knighton will continue to face challenges in achieving budgeted operating cash flow margins due to heightened wage pressures and volume softness,” Moody’s said. 

6. OU Health (Oklahoma City) — lowered in March from “Baa3” to “Ba2” (Moody’s Investors Service)
“The magnitude of the downgrade to Ba2 reflects projected cashflow in fiscal 2022 that will be materially below prior expectations, from an escalation of labor costs, and reliance on a financing to avoid a further decline in already weak liquidity and potential covenant breach,” Moody’s said. “Also, the rating action reflects execution risk given a prolonged period of management turnover with several key positions unfilled or filled with interim leaders, a governance consideration under Moody’s ESG classification.”

7. Catholic Health System (Buffalo, N.Y.) — lowered in February from “Baa2” to “B1” (Moody’s Investors Service) 
“The downgrade to ‘B1’ anticipates minimal cashflow and a further significant decline in liquidity this year, following material losses in fiscal 2021 from a 40-day labor strike and the disproportionately severe impact of the pandemic, both social risks under Moody’s ESG classification,” the credit rating agency said. 

Saying farewell (for now) to a terrible financial quarter

Judging from our recent conversations with health system executives, we’d guess CEOs across the industry woke up this morning glad to see the first quarter in the rearview mirror.

Almost everyone we’ve spoken to has told us that the past three months have been miserable from an operating margin perspective—skyrocketing labor costs, rising drug and supply prices, and stubbornly long length of stay, particularly among Medicare patients.

In the words of one CFO, “I’ve never seen anything like this. For the first time, we budgeted for a negative margin, and still didn’t hit our target. I’m not sure how long our board will let us stay on this trajectory before things change.”

Yet few of the drivers of poor financial performance appear to be temporary. Perhaps the over-reliance on agency nursing staff will wane as COVID volumes bottom out (for how long remains unknown), but overall labor costs will remain high, there’s no immediate relief for supply chain issues, and COVID-related delays in care have left many patients sicker—and thus in need of more costly care. Plus, the lifeline of federal relief funds is rapidly dwindling, if not already gone.

Expect the next three quarters (and beyond) to bring a greater focus on cost cutting, especially as not-for-profit systems struggle to defend their bond ratings in the face of rising interest rates.

Buckle up, it’s going to be a bumpy landing.

Providence hit with credit downgrade after Hoag split

Moody’s Investors Service has downgraded the ratings on Providence’s revenue bond debt to “A1” from “Aa3.” 

“The downgrade to ‘A1’ is driven by the disaffiliation with Hoag Hospital, and the expectation that weaker operating, balance sheet, and debt measures will continue for the time being,” Moody’s said in an April 5 release. 

Renton, Wash.-based Providence and Newport Beach, Calif.-based Hoag ended their affiliation Jan. 31. The two organizations cut ties at a time when Providence is facing several challenges, including operating pressures, variable utilization and reliance on temporary labor, Moody’s said. 

The “A1” rating and stable outlook also reflect Providence’s strengths, including a large service area, a large revenue base of more than $25 billion and a leading market share in all of its markets. 

Moody’s said it expects Providence to continue to grow its operating platform and generate additional revenue growth.