Healthcare executives fear for their organizations’ viability without a COVID-19 vaccine

https://www.healthcarefinancenews.com/news/healthcare-executives-fear-their-organizations-viability-without-covid-19-vaccine

A complete financial recovery for many organizations is still far away, findings from Kaufman Hall indicate.

For the past three years, Kaufman Hall has released annual healthcare performance reports illustrating how hospitals and health systems are managing, both financially and operationally.

This year, however, with the pandemic altering the industry so broadly, the report took a different approach: to see how COVID-19 impacted hospitals and health systems across the country. The report’s findings deal with finances, patient volumes and recovery.

The report includes survey answers from respondents almost entirely (96%) from hospitals or health systems. Most of the respondents were in executive leadership (55%) or financial roles (39%). Survey responses were collected in August 2020.

FINANCIAL IMPACT

Findings from the report indicate that a complete financial recovery for many organizations is still far away. Almost three-quarters of the respondents said they were either moderately or extremely concerned about their organization’s financial viability in 2021 without an effective vaccine or treatment.

Looking back on the operating margins for the second quarter of the year, 33% of respondents saw their operating margins decline by more than 100% compared to the same time last year.

Revenue cycles have taken a hit from COVID-19, according to the report. Survey respondents said they are seeing increases in bad debt and uncompensated care (48%), higher percentages of uninsured or self-pay patients (44%), more Medicaid patients (41%) and lower percentages of commercially insured patients (38%).

Organizations also noted that increases in expenses, especially for personal protective equipment and labor, have impacted their finances. For 22% of respondents, their expenses increased by more than 50%.

IMPACT ON PATIENT VOLUMES

Although volumes did increase over the summer, most of the improvement occurred in areas where it is difficult to delay care, such as oncology and cardiology. For example, oncology was the only field where more than half of respondents (60%) saw their volumes recover to more than 90% of pre-pandemic levels.

More than 40% of respondents said that cardiology volumes are operating at more than 90% of pre-pandemic levels. Only 37% of respondents can say the same for orthopedics, neurology and radiology, and 22% for pediatrics.

Emergency department usage is also down as a result of the pandemic, according to the report. The respondents expect that this trend will persist beyond COVID-19 and that systems may need to reshape their business model to account for a drop in emergency department utilization.

Most respondents also said they expect to see overall volumes remain low through the summer of 2021, with some planning for suppressed volumes for the next three years.

RECOVERY MEASURES

Hospitals and health systems have taken a number of approaches to reduce costs and mitigate future revenue declines. The most common practices implemented are supply reprocessing, furloughs and salary reductions, according to the report.

Executives are considering other tactics such as restructuring physician contracts, making permanent labor reductions, changing employee health plan benefits and retirement plan contributions, or merging with another health system as additional cost reduction measures.

THE LARGER TREND

Kaufman Hall has been documenting the impact of COVID-19 hospitals since the beginning of the pandemic. In its July report, hospital operating margins were down 96% since the start of the year.

As a result of these losses, hospitals, health systems and advocacy groups continue to push Congress to deliver another round of relief measures.

Earlier this month, the House passed a $2.2 trillion stimulus bill called the HEROES Act, 2.0. The bill has yet to pass the Senate, and the chances of that happening are slim, with Republicans in favor of a much smaller, $500 billion package. Nothing is expected to happen prior to the presidential election.

The Department of Health and Human Services also recently announced the third phase of general distribution for the Provider Relief Fund. Applications are currently open and will close on Friday, November 6.

2020 State of Healthcare Performance Improvement Report: The Impact of COVID-19

For the past three years, Kaufman Hall has surveyed hospitals and health systems on their performance improvement and cost transformation efforts. This year, these efforts met an historic challenge with the COVID-19 pandemic.

The pandemic’s impacts have been severe. Entire service lines were shut down as state governments required or strongly encouraged suspension of elective and non-emergency procedures, in part to conserve critical resources—including personal protective equipment—in the early days of the pandemic. Supply chains were disrupted, with organizations that had come to rely on “just in time” inventory practices scrambling to secure the resources needed to ensure the safety of patients and frontline clinical staff. The healthcare workforce came under incredible pressure, confronting a crisis that threatened to overwhelm the health system’s capacity to treat patients.

In a year unlike any other, our annual survey moved away from the questions of earlier years. We have focused on the impacts of COVID-19 on hospital and health system performance. Then, through interviews with survey respondents on the front line of the battle with COVID-19, we have sought to understand how health system leaders are seeking to find a path forward amid uncertainty that will likely stretch through 2021, if not beyond.

Key findings from this year’s report include the following:

  • Financial viabilityApproximately three fourths of survey respondents are either extremely (22%) or moderately (52%) concerned about the financial viability of their organization in the absence of an effective vaccine or treatment.
  • Operating margins. One third of our respondents saw year-over-year operating margin declines in excess of 100% from Q2 2019 to Q2 2020.
  • Volumes. Volumes in most service areas are recovering slowly. In only one area—oncology—have a majority of our respondents seen volumes return to more than 90% of pre-pandemic levels.
  • Expenses. A majority of survey respondents have seen their greatest percentage expense increase in the costs of supplying personal protective equipment. Nursing staff labor is in second place, cited by 34% of respondents as their most significant area of expense increase.
  • Healthcare workforce. Three fourths of survey respondents have increased monitoring and resources to address staff burnout and mental health concerns.
  • Telehealth. More than half of our respondents have seen the number of telehealth visits at their organization increase by more than 100% since the pandemic began. Payment disparities between telehealth and in-person visits are seen as the greatest obstacle to more widespread adoption of telehealth.
  • Competition. Approximately one third of survey respondents believe the pandemic has affected competitive dynamics in their market by making consumers more likely to seek care at retail-based clinics.
9 hospitals with strong finances

9 hospitals with strong finances

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Here are nine hospitals and health systems with strong operational metrics and solid financial positions, according to reports from Fitch Ratings, Moody’s Investors Service and S&P Global Ratings.

1. St. Louis-based Ascension has an “AA+” rating and stable outlook with Fitch. The system has a strong financial profile and a significant presence in several key markets, Fitch said. The credit rating agency expects Ascension will continue to produce healthy operating margins. 

2. Phoenix-based Banner Health has an “AA-” rating and stable outlook with Fitch and S&P. Banner’s financial profile is strong, even taking into consideration the market volatility that occurred in the first quarter of this year, Fitch said. The credit rating agency expects the system to continue to improve operating margins and to generate cash flow sufficient to sustain strong key financial metrics. 

3. Cincinnati-based Bon Secours Mercy Health has an “AA-” rating and stable outlook with Fitch. The health system has a good payer mix, a leading position in several of its markets and adequate margins to support its growth, Fitch said. The credit rating agency expects the system to maintain strong operating profitability.  

4. Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia has an “Aa2” rating and stable outlook with Moody’s and an “AA” rating and stable outlook with S&P. The hospital has a strong market position and healthy liquidity, Moody’s said. The credit rating agency expects CHOP’s market position and brand equity will support its recovery from disruption caused by COVID-19. 

5. Milwaukee-based Children’s Wisconsin has an “Aa3” rating and stable outlook with Moody’s and an “AA” rating and stable outlook with S&P. The health system has strong cash flow margins, Moody’s said. The credit rating agency expects the health system’s financial performance to remain solid, given its commanding market presence and demand for services. 

6. Philadelphia-based Main Line Health has an “AA” rating and stable outlook with Fitch. The credit rating agency expects the system’s operations to recover after the COVID-19 pandemic and for it to resume its track record of strong operating cash flow margins. 

7. Midland-based MidMichigan Health has an “AA-” rating and stable outlook with Fitch. The system has generated healthy operational levels through fiscal year 2020, and Fitch expects it to continue generating strong cash flow. 

8. Columbus, Ohio-based Nationwide Children’s Hospital has an “Aa2” rating and stable outlook with Moody’s. The system has a strong market position in pediatric services in Columbus and the broad central Ohio region, and its advanced research capabilities will support volume recovery from disruption caused by COVID-19, Moody’s said. The credit rating agency expects Nationwide Children’s margins to remain strong and for cost management initiatives and volume recovery to drive improvements. 

9. Chicago-based Northwestern Memorial HealthCare has an “Aa2” rating and stable outlook with Moody’s. The health system had strong pre-COVID margins and liquidity, Moody’s said. The credit rating agency expects the system to maintain strong operating cash flow margins. 

New Jersey hospitals are a microcosm of potential COVID-19 financial impact

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What CFOs think about the economic impact of COVID-19

The last time margins sank so deeply into the red was after the Balanced Budget Act of 1997, though today’s margins are faring worse.

COVID-19 continues to have deep and lingering financial impacts on hospitals in New Jersey. A midyear analysis of financial data shows nearly 60% of the state’s hospitals in the red and an average statewide operating margin of negative 4%.

The effects have been profound, and serve as a potential microcosm of the continuing impact of the coronavirus on hospital operating margins nationwide.

The decline in the state is the result of a dual blow of declining revenues and rising expenses, according to the report from the Center for Health Analytics, Research and Transformation at the New Jersey Hospital Association. Officials said the state’s hospitals haven’t experienced this level of fiscal distress in more than 20 years.

In fact, the last time margins sunk so deeply into the red was in the late 1990s. At that time, the Balanced Budget Act of 1997 resulted in significant payment cuts to the state’s hospitals, with margins falling to -1.7% and -2.3% in 1998 and 1999, respectively. And those numbers are not as distressing as the ones being experienced during the public health crisis.

WHAT’S THE IMPACT?

The report, “At Mid-Year, COVID-19’s Financial Wounds Continue for N.J. Hospitals,” shows the impact of continued loss of revenue from the suspension of elective procedures at COVID-19’s peak in the spring, and the slow rebound of patients returning to the hospital.

CHART’s data, comparing June 30, 2019, with June 30, 2020, shows that total patient revenues declined 6.6%. Emergency department cases plummeted 23%, while hospital admissions fell by 8% and outpatient visits dropped by 22%.

An additional aggravating factor is a 12% increase in total operating expenses, because COVID-19 required hospitals to redirect resources to increase staffing; boost supplies of personal protective equipment, pharmaceuticals and ventilators; and modify operations and facilities to expand capacity.

CHART’s analysis takes a closer look at the disruption of elective procedures in New Jersey hospitals and its lingering impact. Governor Phil Murphy’s Executive Order 109, in effect March 27 through May 26, required hospitals to suspend elective procedures during the state’s COVID-19 surge. CHART used claims data for some of the highest-volume elective procedures performed in New Jersey hospitals – bariatric surgery, pacemaker insertion, spinal fusion, knee replacement and hernia repair – to gauge the impact.

In April and May 2019, the state’s hospitals performed these procedures 4,336 times. That number plummeted to just 400 statewide in April and May 2020. The state’s executive order suspending procedures during this time allowed exemptions for cases in which a delay would result in “undue risk to the current or future health of the patient.” 

The year-over-year decline persisted even when the suspension was lifted. In June and July of 2019, 4,194 procedures from the list of high-volume procedures were performed, compared with 3,191 in June and July of 2020.

But the greatest decline in volume by percentage was seen in hospital emergency departments, where cases nosedived 23.4% between June 30, 2019, and June 30, 2020. That has healthcare leaders concerned.

NJHA officials said a hospital turnaround is critical for the statewide recovery from the coronavirus.

“The state’s hospitals pump $25 billion annually into the New Jersey economy and employ 154,000 people,” said NJHA’s Roger Sarao, vice president of economic and financial information and lead author of the CHART report. “They are an essential part of the road to recovery from this public health and economic crisis.”

THE LARGER TREND

The effects of the pandemic on the nation’s hospitals will be long-lasting, especially among nonprofits. A recent Fitch Ratings analysis showed that the full effects have yet to be felt.

The agency predicted that capital spending will be greatly reduced in the initial years post-pandemic, though some of it will ultimately accelerate due to anticipated merger and acquisition activity.

Fitch expects hospitals to take on added expenses to perform the same level of service, and predicts revenue declines from a shift in payer mix.

Moody’s: Hospital financial outlook worse as COVID-19 relief funds start to dwindle

https://www.fiercehealthcare.com/hospitals/moody-s-hospital-financial-outlook-worse-as-covid-19-relief-funds-start-to-dwindle?mkt_tok=eyJpIjoiWTJZek56Z3lNV1E0TW1NMyIsInQiOiJKdUtkZE5DVGphdkNFanpjMHlSMzR4dEE4M29tZ24zek5lM3k3amtUYSt3VTBoMmtMUnpIblRuS2lYUWozZk11UE5cL25sQ1RzbFpzdExcL3JvalBod3Z6U3BZK3FBNjZ1Rk1LQ2pvT3A5Witkc0FmVkJocnVRM0dPbFJHZTlnRGJUIn0%3D&mrkid=959610

For-profit hospitals are expected to see a financial decline over the next 12 to 18 months as federal relief funds that shored up revenue losses due to COVID-19 start to wane, a recent analysis from Moody’s said.

The analysis, released Monday, finds that cost management is going to be challenging for hospital systems as more surgical procedures are expected to migrate away from the hospital and people lose higher-paying commercial plans and go to lower-paying government programs such as Medicaid.

“The number of surgical procedures done outside of the hospital setting will continue to increase, which will weaken hospital earnings, particularly for companies that lack sizeable outpatient service lines (including ambulatory surgery centers),” the analysis said.

A $175 billion provider relief fund passed by Congress as part of the CARES Act helped keep hospital systems afloat in March and April as volumes plummeted due to the cancellation of elective procedures and reticence among patients to go to the hospitals.

Some for-profit systems such as HCA and Tenet pointed to relief funding to help generate profits in the second quarter of the year. The benefits are likely to dwindle as Congress has stalled over talks on replenishing the fund.

“Hospitals will continue to recognize grant aid as earnings in Q3 2020, but this tailwind will significantly moderate after that,” Moody’s said.

Cost cutting challenges

Compounding problems for hospitals is how to handle major costs.

Some hospital systems cut some costs such as staff thanks to furloughs and other measures.

“Some hospitals have said that for every lost dollar of revenue, they were able to cut about 50 cents in costs,” the analysis said. “However, we believe that these levels of cost cuts are not sustainable.”

Hospitals can’t cut costs indefinitely, but the costs for handling the pandemic (more money for personal protective equipment and safety measures) are going to continue for some time, Moody’s added.

“As a result, hospitals will operate less efficiently in the wake of the pandemic, although their early experiences in treating COVID-19 patients will enable them to provide care more efficiently than in the early days of the pandemic,” the analysis found. “This will help hospitals free up bed capacity more rapidly and avoid the need for widespread shutdowns of elective surgeries.”

But will that capacity be put to use?

The number of surgical procedures done outside of the hospital is likely to increase and will further weaken earnings, Moody’s said.

“Outpatient procedures typically result in lower costs for both consumers and payers and will likely be preferred by more patients who are reluctant to check-in to a hospital due to COVID-19,” the analysis said.

The payer mix will also shift, and not in hospitals’ favor. Mounting job losses due to the pandemic will force more patients with commercial plans toward programs such as Medicaid.

“This will hinder hospitals’ earnings growth over the next 12-18 months,” Moody’s said. “Employer-provided health insurance pays significantly higher reimbursement rates than government-based programs.”

Bright spots

There are some bright spots for hospitals, including that not all of the $175 billion has been dispersed yet. The CARES Act continues to provide hospitals with a 20% add-on payment for treating Medicare patients that have COVID-19, and it suspends a 2% payment cut for Medicare payments that was installed as part of sequestration.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services also proposed increasing outpatient payment rates for the 2021 fiscal year by 2.6% and in-patient rates by 2.9%. The fiscal year is set to start next month.

Patient volumes could also return to normal in 2021. Moody’s expects that patient volumes will return to about 90% of pre-pandemic levels on average in the fourth quarter of the year.

“The remaining 10% is likely to come back more slowly in 2021, but faster if a vaccine becomes widely available,” the analysis found.

 

 

 

 

Outlook remains negative for US for-profit hospitals, Moody’s says

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Fitch gives negative ratings outlook for APAC life insurance | Insurance  Business

Moody’s Investors Service maintained its negative outlook for U.S. for-profit hospitals due to waning federal aid, shifting payer mixes and varying volume trends.

Moody’s expects for-profit hospitals earnings before interest tax depreciation and amortization to decline by a low-to-mid single-digit rate in the next 12 to 18 months.

The credit rating agency maintained the negative outlook for several reasons, including that government aid to providers is beginning to wind down and most providers will see adverse payer mix shifts in the next year due to the high unemployment rate in the U.S.

In addition, volume trends and acuity levels are likely to vary significantly for these for-profit providers across the U.S. and the number of procedures performed outside of the hospital setting will continue to increase, which will weaken hospital earnings, Moody’s said. 

Further, the credit rating agency said that many providers implemented rapid and aggressive cost cutting measures, which enabled them to exit the second quarter largely unscathed.

“Some hospitals have said that for every lost dollar of revenue, they were able to cut about 50 cents in costs. However, we believe that these levels of cost cuts are not sustainable,” Moody’s said.

Overall, Moody’s said it expects volumes to gradually return to pre-COVID-19 levels in 2021.

 

 

 

8 health systems with strong finances

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

1. Minneapolis-based Allina Health has an “AA-” rating and stable outlook with Fitch. The health system has a strong financial profile and is the acute care leader in the broad Twin Cities metro area, Fitch said. The credit rating agency said Allina’s proven ability to rebound quickly from operating challenges supports the stable outlook.

2. Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta has an “Aa2” rating and stable outlook with Moody’s. The system has strong operating margins and is the leading pediatric provider in the Atlanta area, Moody’s said. The credit rating agency expects Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta to continue to generate robust margins and maintain exceptional liquidity while undergoing a new campus expansion project.

3. La Crosse, Wis.-based Gundersen Health System has an “AA-” rating and stable outlook with Fitch. The health system has consistently strong operating performance, strong balance sheet metrics and a low debt burden, Fitch said. The credit rating agency said Gundersen’s rating continues to be supported by its leading market position and expanding operating platform.

4. Houston Methodist has an “AA” rating and stable outlook with S&P. The system, which comprises an academic medical center and six community hospitals, has a strong enterprise profile and a history of excellent margins and cash flow, S&P said. The credit rating agency said Houston Methodist is well positioned to withstand the pressures from COVID-19.

5. Indianapolis-based Indiana University Health has an “AA” rating and stable outlook with Fitch. The health system has a solid balance sheet and strong operating cash flow despite short-term pressure from the COVID-19 pandemic. The credit rating agency expects IU Health’s EBITDA margins will range between 12 percent and 14 percent annually when margins recover from the pandemic.

6. Broomfield, Colo.-based SCL Health has an “AA-” rating and stable outlook with Fitch and an “Aa3” rating and stable outlook with Moody’s. The system has a track record of exceptional operations, consistent improvement in unrestricted liquidity levels and significant financial flexibility, Fitch said. The credit rating agency said SCL Health is well positioned to manage the pressures of COVID-19, having built up cash reserves.

7. San Diego-based Scripps Health has an “AA” rating and stable outlook with Fitch and an “Aa3” rating and stable outlook with Moody’s. The health system has a strong balance sheet, strong operations and has maintained a low leverage position, Fitch said. The credit rating agency expects Scripps will continue generating operating levels that are consistent with historical trends following recovery from the pandemic.

8. San Diego-based Sharp HealthCare has an “Aa3” rating and stable outlook with Moody’s and an “AA” rating and stable outlook with S&P. The health system has a healthy financial profile, an excellent balance sheet, a solid business position and is the leading provider in a competitive service area, S&P said. The credit rating agency said the system’s financial performance has remained stable despite COVID-19 and the recession.

 

 

Despite turbulence in H1, no avalanche of health systems downgrades

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“It’s new territory, which is why we’re taking that measured approach on rating actions,” Suzie Desai, senior director at S&P, said.

The healthcare sector has been bruised from the novel coronavirus and the effects are likely to linger for years, but the first half of 2020 has not resulted in an avalanche of hospital and health system downgrades.

At the outset of the pandemic, some hospitals warned of dire financial pressures as they burned through cash while revenue plunged. In response, the federal government unleashed $175 billion in bailout funds to help prop up the sector as providers battled the effects of the virus.

Still, across all of public finance — which includes hospitals — the second quarter saw downgrades outpacing upgrades for the first time since the second quarter of 2017.

S&P characterized the second quarter as a “historic low” for upgrades across its entire portfolio of public finance credits.

“While only partially driven by the coronavirus, the second quarter was the first since Q2 2017 with the number of downgrades surpassing upgrades and by the largest margin since Q3 2014,” according to a recent Moody’s Investors Service report.

Through the first six months of this year, Moody’s has recorded 164 downgrades throughout public finance and, more specifically, 27 downgrades among the nonprofit healthcare entities it rates.

By comparison, Fitch Ratings has recorded 14 nonprofit hospital and health system downgrades through July and just two upgrades, both of which occurred before COVID-19 hit.

“Is this a massive amount of rating changes? By no means,” Kevin Holloran, senior director of U.S. Public Finance for Fitch, said of the first half of 2020 for healthcare.

Also through July, S&P Global recorded 22 downgrades among nonprofit acute care hospitals and health systems, significantly outpacing the six healthcare upgrades recorded over the same period.

“It’s new territory, which is why we’re taking that measured approach on rating actions,” Suzie Desai, senior director at S&P, said.

Still, other parts of the economy lead healthcare in terms of downgrades. State and local governments and the housing sector are outpacing the healthcare sector in terms of downgrades, according to S&P.

Virus has not ‘wiped out the healthcare sector’

Earlier this year when the pandemic hit the U.S., some made dire predictions about the novel coronavirus and its potential effect on the healthcare sector.

Reports from the ratings agencies warned of the potential for rising covenant violations and an outlook for the second quarter that would result in the “worst on record, one Fitch analyst said during a webinar in May.

That was likely “too broad of a brushstroke,” Holloran said. “It has not come in and wiped out the healthcare sector,” he said. He attributes that in part to the billions in financial aid that the federal government earmarked for providers.

Though, what it has revealed is the gaps between the strongest and weakest systems, and that the disparities are only likely to widen, S&P analysts said during a recent webinar.

The nonprofit hospitals and health systems pegged with a downgrade have tended to be smaller in size in terms of scale, lower-rated already and light on cash, Holloran said.

Still, some of the larger health systems were downgraded in the first half of the year by either one of the three rating agencies, including Sutter Health, Bon Secours Mercy Health, Geisinger, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and Care New England.

“This is something that individual management of a hospital couldn’t control,” said Rick Gundling, senior vice president of Healthcare Financial Management Association, which has members from small and large organizations. “It wasn’t a bad strategy — that goes into a downgrade. This happened to everybody.”

Deteriorating payer mix

Looking forward, some analysts say they’re more concerned about the long-term effects for hospitals and health systems that were brought on by the downturn in the economy and the virus.

One major concern is the potential shift in payer mix for providers.

As millions of people lose their job they risk losing their employer-sponsored health insurance. They may transition to another private insurer, Medicaid or go uninsured.

For providers, commercial coverage typically reimburses at higher rates than government-sponsored coverage such as Medicare and Medicaid. Treating a greater share of privately insured patients is highly prized.

If providers experience a decline in the share of their privately insured patients and see a growth in patients covered with government-sponsored plans, it’s likely to put a squeeze on margins.

The shift also poses a serious strain for states, and ultimately providers. States are facing a potential influx of Medicaid members at the same time state budgets are under tremendous financial pressure. It raises concerns about whether states will cut rates to their Medicaid programs, which ultimately affects providers.

Some states have already started to re-examine and slash rates, including Ohio.

 

 

 

 

UPMC’s revenue tops $11B in first half of year

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UPMC tops $11B in revenue in 1st half of 2020 | TribLIVE.com

UPMC reported higher revenue in the first half of this year than in the same period of 2019, but the Pittsburgh-based health system’s operating income declined year over year, according to unaudited financial documents.

UPMC reported revenue of $11.1 billion in the first six months of this year, up nearly $1 billion from the same period of 2019. A year-over-year decline in net patient service revenue attributed to volume declines linked to the COVID-19 pandemic was offset by gains in insurance enrollment revenue. Enrollment in UPMC’s health plans grew to 3.9 million members as of June 30.

Expenses also increased year over year. UPMC reported operating expenses of $11.1 billion in the first half of this year, up from $10.1 billion a year earlier. Operating income for the first two quarters of 2020 totaled $59 million, down $20 million from the same period last year.

The health system ended the first half of this year with a net loss of $165 million, compared to net income of $372 million a year earlier. The net loss was attributed to a $423 million loss on investments from January through July. 

Though UPMC continues to experience some disruption to operations as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the system’s interim CFO Edward Karlovich said it’s on solid financial footing.

“We’re positioned with an organization of great financial strength to deal with what comes at us,” Mr. Karlovich said during a news conference Aug. 26, according to TRIBLive

 

 

 

 

Sutter posts $857M loss in H1 on investment, operational declines

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California's Sutter Health reaps rewards from investments in ...

Dive Brief:

  • Sutter Health had a staggering loss of $857 million in the first half of the year as the Northern California health was bruised by the pandemic. That’s almost a $1.4 billion drop in income compared to the first half of last year, a plummet Sutter management largely blamed on investment and operational losses in its latest financial filing posted Thursday.
  • The virus shuttered operations for a period of time, driving Sutter’s revenue down 8% to $6.1 billion during the first half of the year. Expenses climbed nearly 2%, contributing to an operating loss of $557 million.
  • Still, the nonprofit noted it did experience a significant rebound in its investments in the second quarter after weathering the devastating effects of the first quarter.

Dive Insight:

Sutter joins other major nonprofit health systems in posting net losses for the first half of the year despite receiving hundreds of millions in federal grants to help offset headwinds brought on by the pandemic.

Recently, both Renton, Washington-based Providence and Arizona-based Banner Health posted losses for the first half of the year — $538 million and $267 million, respectively. Dampened revenue and downturns in investments contributed to their losses.

The federal government has funneled billions of dollars to providers across the country in an attempt to help them weather the downturn in patient volumes. Sutter noted in its filing that it’s received $400 million in federal relief funds so far, though that wasn’t enough to push the health system back into the black. Sutter operates 29 hospitals and enjoys a large presence in Northern California.

Sutter reported fewer admissions and emergency room visits in the second quarter compared to the prior-year period, down about 10% and 19%, respectively.

The pandemic was quick to wreak havoc on Sutter’s finances during the first quarter, in which the system reported an operating loss of $236 million and a net loss of almost $1.1 billion.

The coronavirus is also serving as a drag on its ratings. In April, two of the three big ratings agencies downgraded Sutter Health’s rating.

In part, Moody’s attributed the downgrade to Sutter’s weaker profitability profile. In its rationale, Moody’s said, “Following a second year of weaker results, margins in 2020 are likely to remain under pressure due to COVID-19 related disruptions, ongoing performance challenges at some of Sutter’s facilities, and continued reimbursement pressure.”

Also weighing on Moody’s rating is the $575 million settlement expected to be paid this year to resolve antitrust issues. Last year, the health system averted a trial over antitrust concerns after agreeing to a settlement with California regulators. Sutter agreed it would end any contracts that require all of its facilities to be in-network or none of them and cap out-of-network charges, among other stipulations.