Prime Healthcare hit with credit downgrade

Moody’s Investors Service has downgraded the ratings on Prime Healthcare’s probability of default rating to “B2-PD” from “B1-PD” as well as its ratings of the system’s senior secured notes to “B3” from “B2.”

Moody’s also revised the outlook to negative from stable because it projects operating expenses will continue to pressure the 45-hospital system’s profitability in the near term, presenting challenges for “the company’s pace of deleveraging,” according to a Nov. 18 news release. 

The downgrade of the Ontario, Calif.-based system’s ratings reflects Moody’s expectation of continued pressure on the Prime’s profitability in the coming quarters and elevated financial leverage, Moody’s said.

Prime’s debt/EBITDA jumped to about 6.1 times at the end of September from high-3.0 times one year ago, according to Moody’s. While a large part of the leverage increase was due to weak earnings in the first quarter, Moody’s expects the system’s financial leverage will remain high in the 6-6.5 times range in the next 12 months. 

This year, the health system saw a surge in operating expenses, not fully offset by an increase in reimbursements, according to Moody’s. A significant portion of the increased expenses can be attributed to rising contract labor costs. Contract labor cost per hour dipped in the third quarter but still remains far higher than in prior years.

Moody’s said social and governance risk considerations are material to the rating downgrade, arguing that Prime’s reliance on clinical labor makes it vulnerable to worsening supply-demand imbalance of such labor and the resultant spike in labor costs. The risk has become more prominent after the pandemic, which triggered increased retirement and a shift from permanent to temporary staffing, especially for nurses, Moody’s said.

Health system cash reserves plummet

Cash reserves, an important indicator of financial stability, are dropping for hospitals and health systems across the U.S.

Both large and small health systems are affected by rising labor and supply costs while reimbursement remains low. St. Louis-based Ascension reported days cash on hand dropped from 336 at the end of the 2021 fiscal year to 259 as of June 30, 2022, the end of the fiscal year. The system also reported accounts receivable increased three days from 47.3 in 2021 to 50.3 in 2022 because commercial payers were slow, especially in large dollar claims.

Trinity Health, based in Livonia, Mich., also reported days cash on hand dropped to 211 in fiscal year 2022, ending June 30, compared to 254 days at the end of 2021. Trinity attributed the 43-day decrease in cash on hand to “investment losses and the recoupment of the majority of the Medicare cash advances.”

Chicago-based CommonSpirit Health reported days cash on hand decreased by 69 days in the last year. The 140-hospital health system reported 245 days cash on hand at the 2021 fiscal year’s end June 30, and 176 days for 2022.

Lehigh Valley Health Network in Allentown, Pa., said unfavorable trends in the capital market led to investment losses and a drop in days cash on hand from 216 to 150 days in the 2022 fiscal year ending June 30. The health system also had a scheduled repayment of $191.1 million in advance Medicare dollars as well as $25 million in deferred payroll tax payments.

Philadelphia-based Thomas Jefferson University reported cash on hand for clinical operations dropped by 10.9 days in just the last quarter due to nonoperating investment losses and repaying government advances, which equaled about five days cash on hand. The health system reported 158.5 days cash on hand as of Sept. 30.

While the large health systems’ days cash on hand are dropping, they still have deep reserves. Smaller hospitals and health systems are in a more dire situation. Doylestown (Pa.) Hospital reported as of Sept. 30 the system had 81 days cash on hand, and Moody’s downgraded the hospital in June after the days cash on hand dropped below 100.

Kaweah Health in Visalia, Calif., saw reserves plummet since the pandemic began from 130 to 84 days cash on hand. Gary Herbst, CEO of Kaweah Health, blamed lost elective procedures, high labor costs, inflation and more for the system’s financial issues.

“The COVID-19 pandemic, and its aftermath, have brought District hospitals to the brink of financial collapse,” Mr. Herbst wrote in an open letter to Gov. Gavin Newsom published in the Visalia Times Delta. He asked Mr. Newsom to provide additional funding for public district hospitals. “Without your help, it will soon be virtually impossible for Medi-Cal patients to receive anything but emergency medical care in the State of California.”

5 health systems hit with rating downgrades

A number of health systems experienced downgrades to their financial ratings in recent weeks amid ongoing operating losses and challenging work environments.

Here is a summary of recent ratings since Becker’s last roundup Sept. 21:

The following systems experienced downgrades:

Main Line Health (Radnor Township, Pa.) — downgraded debt rating from “AA” to “AA-” in November (Fitch Ratings)

The downgrade reflects “significant operating losses” in fiscal year 2022, ending June 30, and is in relation to $594 million of bonds the health system holds. While downgrading that specific rating, however, Fitch described the healthcare group’s outlook as stable and said that it will benefit from a good market position in a favorable service area with strong market share.

Fitch described “continued expense challenges” facing the hospital group over the next two years as part of its decision to downgrade the debt rating.

Hannibal (Mo.) Regional Healthcare System — lowered financial outlook in November from stable to negative amid uncertainty around the hospital group’s capital spending plans (Fitch Ratings)

“The Negative Outlook reflects uncertainty around capital spending and the potential issuance of new debt to address infrastructure issues at the system’s main campus and expand inpatient/outpatient capacity,” Fitch said. “A master facilities planning process has begun, but cost estimates and timing are not yet available and the board has not approved any potential projects.” 

Fitch also affirmed default ratings for HRHS at “A-.”

ChristianaCare (Newark, Del.) was issued a negative outlook in October (S&P Global Ratings)

Pressures from the pandemic and industry challenges have led to a “volatile operating performance” in the last three years, and ChristianaCare has a small revenue base compared to similarly rated health systems, S&P said,

“The negative outlook reflects [ChristianaCare’s] operating volatility and balance sheet deterioration that, while largely stemming from COVID-19 pandemic and industry pressures, are not characteristic of the ‘AA+’ rating level and could lead to a downgrade during the outlook period,” Chloe Pickett, an S&P credit analyst, said in the firm’s report.

The S&P also affirmed ChristianaCare’s “AA+” long-term rating based on the health system’s leading business position within its service area and healthy balance sheet, according to an Oct. 27 report.

MultiCare Health System (Tacoma, Wash.) had various debt obligations downgraded in October from”AA-” to “A+” (Fitch Ratings)

The downgrades included the healthcare system’s existing bond ratings and $430 million of fixed rate taxable notes as well as the group’s Issuer Default Rating.

“The downgrade of MultiCare’s IDR to ‘A+’ from ‘AA-‘ reflects the considerable operating stress the system is facing in the current fiscal year, in combination with balance sheet metrics that have moderated as a result of equity market volatility and a recent debt issuance,” Fitch said.

Wise Health System (Decatur, Texas) was downgraded to “BB+” from “BBB-” in regard to various debt obligations as it struggles with continued operating challenges (Fitch Ratings)

Wise Health System’s Issuer Default Rating and the ratings on series 2014A, 2021A, 2021B and 2021C hospital revenue bonds issued by Decatur Hospital Authority on behalf of Wise were all downgraded.

“The downgrade reflects the change in Fitch’s assessment of Wise’s operating risk and financial profiles to ‘bb’ from ‘bbb’ due to deterioration in the hospital’s operating performance through six-months (ended June 30) and the expectation of sizable operating and net losses in 2022,” Fitch said.

Big payers ranked by Q3 profits

The nation’s largest payers have filed their third-quarter earnings reports, revealing which grew their profits the most year over year.

1. UnitedHealth Group: $5.3 billion
The company’s third quarter earnings increased over 28 percent year over year. Total net earnings in 2022 are $15.7 billion, an increase of 16.2 percent from $13.5 billion in 2021.

2. Cigna: $2.8 billion
The company’s third quarter earnings increased over 70 percent year over year. Total net earnings in 2022 are $5.5 billion, an increase of over 29 percent from $4.2 billion in 2021.

3. Elevance Health: $1.6 billion
The company’s third quarter earnings increased over 7 percent year over year. Total net earnings in 2022 are $5.06 billion, an increase of nearly 2 percent from $5 billion in 2021.

4. Humana: $1.2 billion
The company’s third quarter earnings decreased over 21 percent year over year. Total net earnings in 2022 are $2.8 billion, a decrease of over 4 percent from $2.9 billion in 2021.

5. Centene: $738 million
The company’s third quarter earnings increased over 26 percent year over year. Total net earnings in 2022 are $1.4 billion, an increase of over 89 percent from $748 million in 2021.

6. CVS Health: $3.4 billion losses
The company’s third quarter losses are attributable to an opioid legal settlement. Total net earnings in 2022 are $1.9 billion, a decrease of over 71 percent from $6.6 billion in 2021.

10 health systems with strong finances

Here are 10 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 a 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. Allina Health System has an “AA-” rating and a stable outlook with Fitch. The Minneapolis-based system is the inpatient market share leader in a highly competitive market and has a strong relation with payers in the market, Fitch said. Alliana’s financial profile is strong, the ratings agency 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. Bryan Health has an “AA-” rating and stable outlook with Fitch. The Lincoln, Neb.-based 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. Deaconess Health System has an “AA” rating and stable outlook with Fitch. The Evansville, Ind.-based system has a leading market position in its primary service area and a favorable payer mix, Fitch said. The ratings agency said it expects Deaconess’ operating EBITDA margins to improve and stabilize around 10 percent by 2023, reflecting strong volumes and focus on operating efficiencies.

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, a leading market position and an 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. Intermountain Healthcare has an “Aa1” rating and stable outlook with Moody’s. The Salt Lake City-based 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 also give Intermountain greater geographic reach.

10. 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. 

A rough year so far for health system finances

https://mailchi.mp/b1e0aa55afe5/the-weekly-gist-october-7-2022?e=d1e747d2d8

As everyone in our industry knows, sluggish volumes amid persistently rising costs, especially for labor, have sent health system margins into a downward spiral across 2022. Using the latest data from consultancy Kaufman Hall, the graphic above shows that by the end of this year, employed labor expenses will have increased more than all non-labor costs combined. 

While contract labor usage, namely travel nursing, is declining, the constant battle for nursing talent means travel nurses are still a significant expense at many hospitals. Through the first six months of this year, over half of hospitals reported a negative operating margin, and the median hospital operating margin has dropped over 100 percent from 2019. 

Larger health systems are not faring better: all five of the large, multi-regional, not-for-profit systems we’ve highlighted below saw their operating margins tumble this year, with drops ranging from three points (Kaiser Permanente) to nearly seven points (CommonSpirit Health and Providence). 

While these unfavorable cost trends have been building throughout COVID, health systems now have neither federal relief nor returns from a thriving stock market to help stabilize their deteriorating financial outlooks. 

Health system boards will tolerate negative margins in the short-term (especially given that many have months’ worth of days cash on hand), but if this situation persists into 2023, pressure for service cuts, layoffs, and restructuring will mount quickly. 

Moody’s downgrades Envision Healthcare, says bankruptcy possible

https://www.healthcarefinancenews.com/news/moodys-downgrades-envision-healthcare-says-bankruptcy-possible?mkt_tok=NDIwLVlOQS0yOTIAAAGHIoNXD3RHJX9565s0VyIQfY4Uc14busfvrByxC5bYAOaGJlhBG7u8IwXVfkB87U6Jjbirffa4zrcOIdYpH9jOgLhMCdv-mgKhDKgBYygB

Envision will see weak liquidity over the following 12 to 18 months, and its $1.4B cash reserve will likely run dry by the end of next year.

Physician staffing company Envision Healthcare is struggling financially, and these struggles are reflected in a Moody’s Investors Service credit rating downgrade, which took into account ongoing labor pressures and a decline in volumes linked to the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to Moody’s, Envision will see weak liquidity over the following 12 to 18 months, and its $1.4 billion cash reserve will likely run dry by the end of next year. Moody’s said bankruptcy or restructuring is likely in the cards, and its Corporate Family Rating (CFR) has been downgraded from C to Caa3.

The rating action follows a series of transactions including restructuring of Envision’s senior secured credit facilities, and issuing a new revolving credit facility in July 2022 and other debt in April 2022 at its subsidiary, AmSurg. Moody’s deemed Envision’s transactions to be a distressed exchange, as the loans were exchanged at a price below par. That’s a default under Moody’s definition.

Envision’s capital structure is unsustainable, the rating agency said. Recovery rates for much of the company’s debt will be low. Moody’s expects operating performance will continue to deteriorate due to ongoing labor pressures within the industry, as well as rising interest rates that will cause interest expense to nearly double. 

The refinancing has not materially reduced debt, and while the maturities have been extended, Envision remains at risk of being unable to service its debt.

WHAT’S THE IMPACT

There are some factors in play that mitigate some of the risks. Envision has considerable scale and market position as one of the largest physician staffing outsourcers in the country, said Moody’s. The company has strong product diversification within its physician staffing and ambulatory surgery center segments.

However, continuing business pressures and increased interest expense will cause Envision’s free cash flow to be significantly negative in 2022 and beyond. 

When assigning the new ratings, Moody’s considered the expected loss on the Envision debt, which the Rating Agency expects will be significant. Moody’s noted that to the extent that there is asset recovery on the Envision business, the share of proceeds to the term loans will be applied to the Envision senior secured first out term loan before the other debt. But it’s expected that there will be material losses.

The outlook is stable for both Envision and the AmSurg subsidiary. Moody’s expects the company to remain distressed and there is a heightened risk of default given the weak liquidity and risks surrounding the ongoing sustainability of the business.

THE LARGER TREND

Envision operates an extensive emergency department, hospital, anesthesiology, radiology and neonatology physician outsourcing segment. The company also operates more than 250 ambulatory surgery centers in 34 states, and is owned by private equity firm KKR. Revenues for the period ending June 30 were about $7 billion.

Although it’s unlikely in the near term, a substantial improvement in Envision’s liquidity position –  including refinancing of the existing debt – would be needed to support an upgrade. Envision would also need an improvement in its operating performance, Moody’s said.

Earlier this month, Envision filed a lawsuit against UnitedHealthcare over the insurer’s denied claims, sparking a countersuit from UHC, which claimed Envision fraudulently upcoded claims for services provided to UHC members.

UHC removed Envision from its network last year, claiming the firm’s costs did not reflect fair market rates. According to Envision’s lawsuit, UHC denied about 18% of submitted commercial claims – a number that swelled to 48% of all claims after Envision’s removal from UHC networks, the firm said. And for the highest-acuity claims, Envision is accusing UHC of denying 60% of those claims.

Meanwhile, in June, physicians at Corona Regional Medical Center and Temecula Valley Hospital in California threatened to leave the hospitals if for-profit owner Universal Health Services changes the staffing management firm to Envision, according to an emergency room doctor who heads the hospitals’ current staffing firm, Emergent Medical Associates (EMA).
Physicians objected to Envision citing concerns of lower pay and staffing levels leading to lower quality of care.

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.