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.”

14 health systems with strong finances

Here are 14 health systems with strong operational metrics and solid financial positions, according to reports from Fitch Ratings and Moody’s Investors Service.

1. Advocate Aurora Health has an “AA” rating and stable outlook with Fitch. The health system, dually headquartered in Milwaukee and Downers Grove, Ill., has a strong financial profile and a leading market position over a broad service area in Illinois and Wisconsin, Fitch said. The health system’s fundamental operating platform is strong, the credit rating agency said. 

2. AnMed Health has an “AA-” rating and stable outlook with Fitch. The Anderson, S.C.-based system has a leading market share in most service lines, strong operating performance and very solid EBITDA margins, Fitch said. 

3. Banner Health has an “AA-” rating and stable outlook with Fitch. The Phoenix-based health system’s core hospital delivery system and growth of its insurance division combine to make it a successful highly integrated delivery system, Fitch said. The credit rating agency said it expects Banner to maintain operating EBITDA margins of about 8 percent on an annual basis, reflecting the growing revenues from the system’s insurance division and large employed physician base. 

4. Bon Secours Mercy Health has an “AA-” rating and stable outlook with Fitch. The Cincinnati-based health system has a broad geographic footprint as one of the five largest Catholic health systems in the U.S., a good payer mix and a leading or near leading market share in eight of its eleven markets in the U.S., Fitch said. 

5. Lincoln, Neb.-based Bryan Health has an “AA-” rating and stable outlook with Fitch. The health system has a leading and growing market position, very strong cash flow and a strong financial position, Fitch said. The credit rating agency said Bryan Health has been resilient through the COVID-19 pandemic and is well-positioned to accommodate additional strategic investments. 

6. Franciscan Alliance has an “AA” rating and stable outlook with Fitch. The Mishawaka, Ind.-based health system has a very strong cash position and maintains leading market shares in seven of its nine defined primary service areas, Fitch said. The health system benefits from a good payer mix, the credit rating agency said. 

7. Gundersen Health System has an “AA-” rating and stable outlook with Fitch. The La Crosse, Wis.-based health system has strong balance sheet metrics and a leading market position and expanding operating platform in its service area, Fitch said. The credit rating agency expects the health system to return to strong operating performance as it emerges from disruption related to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

8. Hackensack Meridian Health has an “AA-” rating and stable outlook with Fitch. The Edison, N.J.-based health system has shown consistent year-over-year increases in market share and has a solid liquidity position, Fitch said. 

9. Falls Church, Va.-based Inova Health System has an “Aa2” rating and stable outlook with Moody’s. The health system has a consistently strong operating cash flow margin and ample balance sheet resources, Moody’s said. Inova’s financial excellence will remain undergirded by its favorable regulatory and economic environment, the credit rating agency said. 

10. Salt Lake City-based Intermountain Healthcare has an “Aa1” rating and stable outlook with Moody’s. The health system has exceptional credit quality, which will continue to benefit from its leading market position in Utah, Moody’s said. The credit rating agency said the health system’s merger with Broomfield, Colo.-based SCL Health will give Intermountain greater geographic reach.

11. Omaha-based Nebraska Medicine has an “AA-” rating and stable outlook with Fitch. The health system has a strong market position and is the only public academic provider in Nebraska with high acuity services, Fitch said. The health system continues to generate positive operating cash flow levels, and it has modest flexibility to absorb additional debt, according to the credit rating agency. 

12. Fort Wayne, Ind.-based Parkview Health has an “Aa3” rating and stable outlook with Moody’s. The health system has a leading market position with expansive tertiary and quaternary clinical services in northeastern Indiana and northwestern Ohio, Moody’s said. The credit rating agency said the stable outlook reflects management’s ability to generate strong operating performance during the pandement and with less favorable reimbursement rates. 

13. UnityPoint Health has an “AA-” rating and stable outlook with Fitch. The Des Moines, Iowa-based health system has strong leverage metrics and cash position, Fitch said. The credit rating agency expects the health system’s balance sheet and debt service coverage metrics to remain robust. 

14. Yale New Haven (Conn.) Health has an “AA-” rating and stable outlook with Fitch. The health system’s turnaround efforts, brand recognition and market presence will help it return to strong operating results, Fitch said. 

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.

Advocate Aurora Health is down $601M year to date as it gears up for Atrium Health megamerger

https://www.fiercehealthcare.com/providers/advocate-aurora-health-down-601m-year-date-it-gears-its-atrium-health-megamerger

While Advocate Aurora Health’s year-to-date operating income sits at $51.2 million, $666 million in investment declines weigh heavy on its bruised bottom line.

Following a tight first quarter, Advocate Aurora Health managed to grow its operating margin but still landed negative due to $400 million in investment losses during the quarter ended June 30, according to financial filings.

The 27-hospital nonprofit—which pending regulatory review slated to merge with Atrium Health in one of the year’s biggest hospital transactions—reported a $48.7 million operating income during its second fiscal quarter of 2022 (1.7% margin).

This is up from the $2.5 million (0.3% margin) it scraped out earlier this year but well below the $213.7 million (6.5% margin) of Q2 2021.

Revenues for the quarter increased 1.5% year over year to more than $3.5 billion. While patient service revenue and other revenue both grew by tens of millions, capitation revenue declined slightly due to a shift in overall membership mix and a 6.1% dip in capitated lives, the system wrote in its filing.

Discharge volumes fell 7.7% year over year during the most recent quarter, as did home care visits by 7.6%. The system saw increases compared to the previous year among its observation cases (11.6%), hospital outpatient visits (2.1%) and physician visits (7.1%).

Advocate Aurora’s expenses grew at a faster rate, at 6.7% year over year during the second quarter. The increase was led by a 10.2% jump in salaries, wages and benefits payouts, which the system said was fueled by a blend of higher nurse agency costs, higher merit and premium pay for clinical care and volume-driven demand for more full-time equivalent employees.

The nonprofit saw last year’s investment gains largely upended, recording a $400 million net loss during the quarter compared to the $571.6 million gain of the prior year’s equivalent quarter.

The shortfall dragged Advocate Aurora’s net income to a $347.6 million loss for the quarter. It had logged a $545.6 million gain the previous year.

Looking at six-month numbers, the health system reported $7.1 billion in total revenue and $7 billion in total expenses for an operating income of $51.2 million. Year-to-date investment losses landed at $666 million, bringing the organization to a $600.8 million net loss.

Advocate Aurora was formed in 2018 from the merger of nonprofits Advocate Health Care and Aurora Health Care. It treats 2.6 million unique patients, employs 75,000 people and logged just under $14.1 billion in total revenue across 2021 and a net income of more than $1.8 billion.

Should its merger plans go through, Advocate Aurora and Atrium Health would control 67 hospitals and $27 billion of combined revenues across six states. The deal is anticipated to close before the end of the year, according to the earnings filing.

The system’s latest numbers will come as no surprise in light of similar quarterly reports from Advocate Aurora’s nonprofit contemporaries.

Investment struggles and increased expenses were reported across the board, although not every major system was able to keep operations in the black. Mayo ClinicKaiser Permanente and UPMC were among those on the stronger side of the scale while Sutter HealthMass General Brigham and Providence each reported tens to hundreds of millions in operational losses.

Fitch Ratings warned last week that these sector-wide challenges are unlikely to vanish during the remainder of the year. As such, the agency has downgraded its outlook for the nonprofit hospital industry from “neutral” to “deteriorating.”

Nonprofit hospitals’ ‘deceptively strong’ financial metrics likely to end, Fitch says

Nonprofit hospitals’ median financial metrics showed improvement last year, but Fitch Ratings is projecting declines for next year and beyond. 

The credit rating agency analyzed 2021 audited data and reported that “AA” rated hospital medians showed a 20 percent increase in cash to adjusted debt. “BBB” rated health systems had an 8 percent increase.

“The deceptively strong numerical improvements over prior years’ medians are less a sign of sector resiliency and more a cautionary calm before the storm,” Fitch Ratings senior director Kevin Holloran said in the Aug. 18 report. “Additional expenses, primarily labor, have become part of the permanent fabric of hospital operations, that when combined with ongoing incremental challenges will exert tremendous pressure on providers through calendar 2022 and beyond.”

Fitch predicts hospital medians will flip this time next year due to inflationary pressures, a challenging operational start to 2022 and additional omicron sub-variants. 

Fitch also highlighted staffing as a concern for hospital medians. 

“We are likely two years before some level of ‘normal’ returns to the sector,” Mr. Holloran said in the report. “For many hospitals, their ‘value journey’ will be on temporary hold until expenses stabilize and become more predictable.”

8 health systems with strong finances

Here are eight health systems with strong operational metrics and solid financial positions, according to reports from Fitch Ratings and Moody’s Investors Service.

1. Advocate Aurora Health has an “AA” rating and stable outlook with Fitch. The health system, dually headquartered in Milwaukee and Downers Grove, Ill., has a strong financial profile and a leading market position over a broad service area in Illinois and Wisconsin, Fitch said. The health system’s fundamental operating platform is strong, the credit rating agency said. 

2. Banner Health has an “AA-” rating and stable outlook with Fitch. The Phoenix-based health system’s core hospital delivery system and growth of its insurance division combine to make it a successful highly integrated delivery system, Fitch said. The credit rating agency said it expects Banner to maintain operating EBITDA margins of about 8 percent on an annual basis, reflecting the growing revenues from the system’s insurance division and large employed physician base. 

3. Lincoln, Neb.-based Bryan Health has an “AA-” rating and stable outlook with Fitch. The health system has a leading and growing market position, very strong cash flow and a strong financial position, Fitch said. The credit rating agency said Bryan Health has been resilient through the COVID-19 pandemic and is well-positioned to accommodate additional strategic investments. 

4. Gundersen Health System has an “AA-” rating and stable outlook with Fitch. The La Crosse, Wis.-based health system has strong balance sheet metrics and a leading market position and expanding operating platform in its service area, Fitch said. The credit rating agency expects the health system to return to strong operating performance as it emerges from disruption related to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

5. Hackensack Meridian Health has an “AA-” rating and stable outlook with Fitch. The Edison, N.J.-based health system has shown consistent year-over-year increases in market share and has a solid liquidity position, Fitch said. 

6. Falls Church, Va.-based Inova Health System has an “Aa2” rating and stable outlook with Moody’s. The health system has a consistently strong operating cash flow margin and ample balance sheet resources, Moody’s said. Inova’s financial excellence will remain undergirded by its favorable regulatory and economic environment, the credit rating agency said. 

7. Salt Lake City-based Intermountain Healthcare has an “Aa1” rating and stable outlook with Moody’s. The health system has exceptional credit quality, which will continue to benefit from its leading market position in Utah, Moody’s said. The credit rating agency said the health system’s merger with Broomfield, Colo.-based SCL Health will give Intermountain greater geographic reach.

8. UnityPoint Health has an “AA-” rating and stable outlook with Fitch. The Des Moines, Iowa-based health system has strong leverage metrics and cash position, Fitch said. The credit rating agency expects the health system’s balance sheet and debt service coverage metrics to remain robust. 

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.