HCA has purchased MD Now Urgent Care, Florida’s largest urgent care chain, adding 59 urgent care centers to its existing 170. Meanwhile Tenet’s $1.1B deal to buy SurgCenter Development cements its position as the nation’s largest ambulatory surgery center (ASC) operator, eclipsing Envision-owned AMSURG and Optum-owned Surgical Care Affiliates.
The Gist: Healthcare services are increasingly moving outpatient and even virtual—a trend only accelerated by the pandemic. With this latest acquisition, Tenet will now own or operate nearly seven times as many ASCs as hospitals. Such national, for-profit systems are looking to add more non-acute assets to their portfolios, to capitalize on a shift fueled by both consumer preference for greater convenience, and purchaser pressure to reduce care costs.
Under the new deal announced Monday, Tenet will acquire SCD’s ownership interests in 92 ambulatory surgery centers and other support services in 21 states.
In addition to the acquisition, USPI and SCD plan to enter into a five-year partnership and development agreement in which SCD will help facilitate “continuity and support for SCD’s facilities and physician partners.” USPI will also have exclusivity on developing new projects with SCD during the five-year agreement.
Despite being a legacy hospital operator, Tenet’s outpatient surgery business is key to its long-term strategy.
After the latest deal closes, USPI will operate 440 surgery centers in 35 states, Tenet said Tuesday. The acquisition will boost USPI’s footprint in existing markets, such as Florida where it already operates 47 centers and will gain an additional 15. USPI will also enter new markets, such as Michigan, with a sizable footprint at the outset, executives said Tuesday.
The deal includes 65 mature centers and 27 that have opened in the past year or will soon open and start performing their first cases. Tenet may also spend an additional $250 million to acquire equity interests from physician owners.
Tenet leaders touted SCD’s service line mix, pointing out that a significant portion of the cases performed by these centers are for musculoskeletal care, which includes total joint and spine procedures.
The deal is expected to generate $175 million in EBITDA during the first year, executives said.
SVB Leerink analysts characterized the deal as savvy and said it will reshape the company’s earnings towards a “faster growing, higher margin, and improved capital return profile.”
Heading into 2021, Tenet had expected a greater share of its earnings power to come from its outpatient surgery business. This deal accelerates that aim over the long-term.
In 2014, Tenet’s ambulatory surgery business accounted for just 5% of the company’s overall earnings. Prior to this latest deal, Tenet expected the unit to account for 42% of its overall earnings in 2021.
This latest announcement follows Tenet’s deal in October with Compass Surgical Partners to acquire its ownership and management interests in nine ambulatory surgery centers located in Florida, North Carolina and Texas for an undisclosed sum.
Dallas-based Tenet Healthcare and one of its subsidiaries have entered into a definitive agreement to acquire Towson, Md.-based SurgCenter Development.
Under the agreement, Tenet and its subsidiary United Surgical Partners International will acquire ownership interests in 92 ambulatory surgery centers and related ambulatory support services for approximately $1.2 billion. Of the 92 ASCs, 16 of them are under development and have not yet opened.
Under the deal, expected to close in the fourth quarter of this year, SurgCenter and USPI will also enter into an agreement to develop at least 50 centers over a five-year period.
“We are extremely pleased to announce this transformative transaction and partnership, which builds upon USPI’s position as a premier growth partner and SCD’s track record of developing high-quality centers with leading physicians,” Saum Sutaria, MD, CEO of Tenet Healthcare, said in a Nov. 8 news release. “By welcoming these centers into our company, USPI will maintain its reach as the largest ambulatory platform for musculoskeletal services, a high-growth service line.”
Tenet said it expects the deal to generate strong financial returns.
Nashville, Tenn.-based HCA Healthcare saw strong growth in revenue and profit in the third quarter of 2021 compared to the same period last year.
The 183-hospital system posted revenue of $15.3 billion in the quarter ended Sept. 30, up 14.8 percent from the $13.3 billion recorded in the third quarter of 2020.
Compared to the third quarter of 2020, HCA said same-facility admissions increased 6.8 percent; emergency room visits increased 31.2 percent; inpatient surgeries declined 4.9 percent; and same-facility outpatient surgeries increased 6.4 percent.
Revenue per equivalent admission increased 5.2 percent because of increases in the acuity of patients and favorable payer mix, HCA said.
After factoring in expenses and nonoperating items, HCA’s net income totaled $2.3 billion in the third quarter of 2021, more than triple the $688 million recorded in the third quarter last year.
HCA said the results of the third quarter include more than $1 billion in gains on the sale of four hospitals in Georgia and other money from investments.
For the nine months ending Sept. 30, HCA recorded a net income of $5.1 billion on $43.6 billion in revenue. In the same nine-month period in 2020, HCA saw a net income of $2.3 billion on $37.2 billion in revenue.
“During the third quarter we experienced the most intense surge yet of the pandemic, and our colleagues and physicians delivered record levels of patient care to meet the demand caused by the delta variant,” said Sam Hazen, CEO of HCA Healthcare. “Once again, the disciplined operating culture and strong execution by our teams were on display. I want to thank them for their tremendous work and dedication to serving others.”
A Universal Health Services investor is suing several executives of the King of Prussia, Pa.-based system, alleging they unjustly enriched themselves through stock options amid the pandemic, according to Law360.
The lawsuit, filed in the Delaware Chancery Court and made public July 9, accuses UHS executives and directors of taking advantage of a pandemic-related temporary hit in the company’s stock price and argues taking the stock options was “grossly unfair to the company and its stockholders.”
“The controllers and other company insiders took advantage of the temporary drop in the company’s stock price to grant and receive options to buy the company’s stock at rock bottom prices, thereby showering themselves in excessive compensation,” the lawsuit claims.
In particular, the lawsuit claims that in just 12 days after the stock options were granted, defendants made over $30 million in gains.
Several top execs were named as defendants, including Alan Miller, UHS founder and chair and Marc Miller, CEO and president of UHS. Three other UHS execs were named, as well as Warren Nimetz, an administrative partner of law firm Norton Rose Fulbright’s New York office.
“UHS’s directors and officers deny any liability associated with the company’s routine and publicly disclosed options grant in March 2020,” attorney Matthew Madden of Robbins Russell Englert Orseck & Untereiner, representing UHS, its executives and Mr. Nimetz, told Law360. “The options grant was in line with the company’s compensation practices in prior years and took place at a board meeting scheduled months in advance.”
Mr. Madden added that UHS’ executives and officials “acted properly” and that the plaintiff’s claims are “baseless.”
“UHS is proud of its service to patients, and stewardship of investor capital, during these unprecedented times in the healthcare industry,” Mr. Madden told Law360.
On Thursday, the Biden administration issued the first of what is expected to be a series of new regulations aimed at implementing the No Surprises Act, passed by Congress last year and signed into law by President Trump, which bans so-called “surprise billing” by out-of-network providers involved in a patient’s in-network hospital visit.
The interim final rule, which takes effect in 2022, prohibits surprise billing of patients covered by employer-sponsored and individual marketplace plans, requiring providers to give advance warning if out-of-network physicians will be part of a patient’s care, limiting the amount of patient cost-sharing for bills issued by those providers, and prohibiting balance billing of patients for fees in excess of in-network reimbursement amounts.
The rule also establishes a process for determining allowable rates for out-of-network care, involving comparison to prevailing statewide rates or the involvement of a neutral arbitrator, but falls short of specifying a baseline price for arbitrators to use in determining allowable charges. That methodology, along with other details, will be part of future rulemaking, which will be issued later this year.
Of note, the rule does not include a ban on surprise billing forground ambulance services, which were excluded by Congress in the law’s final passage—even though more than half of all ambulance trips result in an out-of-network bill. Expect intense lobbying by industry interests to continue as the details of future rulemaking are worked out, as has been the case since before the law was passed.
While burdensome for patients,surprise billing has become a lucrative business model for some large, investor-owned specialist groups, who will surely look to minimize the law’s impact on their profits.
Tenet, a major U.S. health system, has agreed to sell five hospitals in the Miami-Dade area for $1.1 billion to Steward Health Care System, a physician-owned hospital operator and health network.
The deal also includes the hospitals’ associated physician practices. Dallas-based Steward has agreed to continue using Tenet’s revenue cycle management firm, Conifer Health Solutions, following the completion of the deal, which is expected to close in the third quarter.
Further underscoring Tenet’s strategic focus, the sale will not include Tenet’s ambulatory surgery centers in Florida. Tenet will hold onto those assets as its ambulatory business becomes a bigger focus for the legacy hospital operator.
Dallas-based Tenet continues to bet on its ambulatory surgery business.
It’s noteworthy that this latest billion-dollar sale does not include any of its surgery centers in Florida, but half of its hospitals. Jefferies analyst Brian Tanquilut said the ambulatory segment now becomes even more important as it will contribute a majority of consolidated earnings in the near term.
The money generated from the sale could also pay for more ASCs, under Tenet’s unit, United Surgical Partners International (USPI), further bulking up Tenet’s ASC portfolio that already outnumbers its competitors.
Tenet is traditionally viewed as a hospital operator, even though its surgery center footprint dwarfs its hospital portfolio. Tenet operates 310 ASCs following a $1.1 billion deal in December to acquire 45 centers from SurgCenter Development. Tenet said Wednesday it operates 65 hospitals.
Of Tenet’s 10 Florida hospitals, Steward will buy up half, including Coral Gables Hospital, Florida Medical Center, Hialeah Hospital, North Shore Medical Center and Palmetto General Hospital.
Tanquilut said that leaves Tenet in control of its “core” south Florida business in the Boca and Palm Beach market, located about 75 miles north of the Miami area where Tenet is selling its hospitals.
During the volatile year of 2020, Tenet was able to post a profit of $399 million for the full year, which includes provider relief funding. As recovery continues, Tenet posted a profit of $97 million during the first quarter, which also includes federal relief due to the pandemic.
Facing intense criticism from hospital executives and emergency physicians, the nation’s largest health insurer, UnitedHealthcare (UHC), delayed the implementation of a controversial policy aimed at reducing what it considers to be unnecessary use of emergency services by its enrollees.
The policy, which would have gone into effect next month, would have denied payment for visits to hospital emergency departments for reasons deemed to be “non-emergent” after retrospective review. Similar to a policy implemented by insurer Anthem several years ago, which led to litigation and Congressional scrutiny, the UHC measure would have exposed patients to potentially large financial obligations if they “incorrectly” visited a hospital ED.
Critics pointed to longstanding statutory protections intended to shield patients from this kind of financial gatekeeping: the so-called “prudent layperson standard” came into effect in the 1980s following the rise of managed care, and requires insurance companies to provide coverage for emergency services based on symptoms, not final diagnosis. UHC now says it will hold off on implementing the change until after the COVID-19 national health emergency has ended, and will use the time to educate consumers and providers about the policy.
Like many critics, we’re gobsmacked by the poor timing of United’s policy change—emergency visits are still down more than 20 percent from pre-pandemic levels, and concerns still abound that consumers are foregoing care for potentially life-threatening conditions because they’re worried about coronavirus exposure. Perhaps UHC is trying to “lock in” reduced ED utilization for the post-pandemic era, or perhaps they never intended to enforce the policy, hoping that the mere threat of financial liability might discourage consumers from visiting hospital emergency rooms.
While we share the view that consumers need better education about how and when to seek care, combined with more robust options for appropriate care, this kind of draconian policy on the part of UnitedHealthcare just underscores why many simply don’t trust profit-driven insurance companies to safeguard their health.
The North Carolina attorney general’s office received 116 complaints about Asheville, N.C.-based Mission Health over a 12-month period, WLOS reported June 8.
WLOS reported that most of the complaints were related to billing issues, 23 percent were concerns over quality of care, 16 percent were related to cost of service, 7 percent were from employees or former employees of Mission Health and 5 percent were related to charity care requirements.
“It’s a concerning number, 116 over a year,” Attorney General Josh Stein told WLOS. “That’s a lot, so we’re sharing our serious concerns with the management of the health system and we are going to be on top of this to the extent we possibly can.”
Mr. Stein told the publication that his office recently dedicated one of his employees to keeping track of all the complaints about Mission Health.
Mission Health was acquired by Nashville, Tenn.-based HCA Healthcare in 2019. HCA agreed to certain commitments as part of the deal, including keeping major Mission Health facilities open and continuing to provide certain services.
Since the acquisition, there have been a number of physician exits from the health system, and an independent monitor is looking into the reason behind the exits.
Mission Health shared the following statement with WLOS:
“Since January of 2021, we are aware of 15 complaints made to the Attorney General’s office, nine of which were related to billing and all of which have been resolved. We address every issue the Attorney General’s office brings to our attention promptly—both with them and the patient. Our patient care is our first priority. We strongly encourage everyone to contact us directly any time there is a concern so we can address it with them immediately and personally.
“Going back to 2020, the majority of billing concerns were made shortly after acquisition of Mission and primarily regarded questions around changes to medical practice operations and a variety of billing issues all of which were resolved. Any patient or guarantor with billing questions or concerns should contact 833-323-0834 and we are happy to discuss, answer any questions you may have, and seek resolution where needed. Further, we have an email address, email@example.com, where people can reach out to us on any matter.”