Insurers face uncertainty in setting 2021 premiums

https://www.healthcarefinancenews.com/news/insurers-face-uncertainty-setting-2021-premiums?mkt_tok=eyJpIjoiTldabE9UTTFZbU16TkRneSIsInQiOiI1djBwUWV6SVpzNlJtRUJEdXBEcEM1UkdGZWtvYTZpdkZ5V1NkTHhpNVFnVFwvR2FJSGlDTVVDcE5lTGtmTDhHY0hWQ05XU1NQNWt3UjRRYUtCOVZtS1ZoNG9SN2wxNU1xYmJVT1k5YWptY2hYVVBObCszNVhiREVFSERNT1hxRkMifQ%3D%3D

What To Do When Faced With Career Uncertainty

Insurers need to project the future cost of delayed elective procedures and total expenses of COVID-19 care.

While health insurers have saved money by the cancellation of elective surgeries and many are currently refunding excess revenue under the Medical Loss Ratio, premiums for the 2021 plan year are still in question.

There is a lot of uncertainty, America’s Health Insurance Plans said. Without comprehensive data, insurers are working to estimate 2021 healthcare costs and must base their rates on projected costs, AHIP explained in an infographic.

It is too soon to know what the real healthcare costs of COVID-19 will be. Also, delayed elective and non-urgent care will likely be delivered – and paid for – later.

That care could be more complex and costly because it was delayed, AHIP said.

WHY THIS MATTERS

Insurers are working to meet state deadlines to file 2021 premiums in the individual market.

THE LARGER TREND

Federal law requires insurers to spend 80-85 cents of every premium dollar on medical services and care. The rest, under the Medical Loss Ratio, may go towards administrative expenses, regulatory costs, federal and state taxes, customer service and other expenses.

The COVID-19 pandemic’s postponement of elective surgeries and regular care has created a surplus in revenue for insurers due to lower spending, which many are refunding now.

ON THE RECORD

“COVID-19 has had a very real impact on the economic, physical, and mental health of millions of Americans,” said Jeanette Thornton, senior vice president of Product, Employer, and Commercial Policy at AHIP.  “Our members are working through this uncertainty to strengthen access to affordable care as the fight against the coronavirus continues. COVID-19 dramatically changed the healthcare landscape–in 2020 and for years to come.

 

 

 

 

Sluggish patient volume could jeopardize hospitals repaying advanced Medicare funds, report suggests

https://www.healthcaredive.com/news/outpatient-visits-rebounding-transunion-report/578894/

CMS Suspends Advance Payment Program to Clinicians for COVID-19

Dive Brief:

  • Though hospital volumes are expected to remain below pre-pandemic levels for quite some time, rebounding outpatient visits seem to be outpacing those for inpatient care or emergency department visits, according to a Transunion Healthcare survey of more than 500 hospitals.
  • During the week of May 10-16, outpatient visits were down 31% and emergency visits were down 40% compared to pre-COVID-19 levels. Inpatient volumes were down 20% and continue to trend upward, though at a slower rate than outpatient or ER visit volumes. Outpatient visits plunged between April 5 and 11, hitting a bottom of 64% down from typical volume.​
  • Baby boomers (born between 1944 and 1964) and the what the report calls the silent generation (born before 1944) are returning to ERs faster than younger generations. Millennials (born between 1980 and 1994) and Generation Z (born between 1995 and 2002) patients, however, are driving positive trends in inpatient and outpatient rebounds.

Dive Insight:

The report echos several others suggesting patients are still cautious about returning to the hospital and other care settings. The Kaiser Family Foundation found that the pandemic has forced nearly half of patients to postpone medical care. About 32% of those who have postponed care said they would get the service in the next three months and 10% said they will do so in four months to a year.

The overall sluggish outlook led Transunion to suggest patient volumes may not be restored to pre-pandemic levels soon enough to both sustain operational and clinical functions and repay advanced Medicare payments that many systems large and small have taken advantage of from CMS.

Because of the demographic trends, systems may have greater success scheduling appointments by checking in first with younger generations, the report suggests.

“We think as providers are beginning to really drive their patient engagement strategies that it’s best if they start reaching out to them, because it’s likely they’ll be willing to re-enter the care setting,” John Yount, vice president for TransUnion Healthcare, told Healthcare Dive.

Providers are taking steps to ease patient fears upon returning to medical settings by implementing temperature checks, spacing out waiting rooms to allow for social distancing and taking other safety measures.

But a sluggish recovery is still likely as patients plan to continue delaying care, especially older adults who are at higher risk for COVID-19 and in some states have been told to continue following stay at home orders.

The slowest return to growth in emergency room visits raises concerns that patients who need emergency care may be avoiding hospital settings due to COVID-19 fears, according to the report.

Older patients are leading the pack in returning to ERs, and they also experienced the largest decline in inpatient volumes from March 1-7 and April 5-11.

Comparatively, younger generations had smaller declines in visit activity overall and are returning to care settings faster, Yount said.

“These deferrals will have implications for both patients and providers — high-acuity and chronically-ill patients risk waiting too long to seek care, and a continued reduction in visit volume will further amplify existing financial challenges for hospitals,” David Wojczynski, president of TransUnion Healthcare, said in a statement.

 

 

 

 

 

Fitch Q2 outlook for nonprofit hospitals: ‘worst on record’

https://www.healthcaredive.com/news/fitch-analysts-hospital-worries-FY-2020/577875/

7 Ways to Survive a Cash Flow Crunch | SCORE

UPDATE: May 15, 2020: This article has been updated to include information from a Moody’s Investors Service report.

From the Mayo Clinic to Kaiser Permanente, nonprofit hospitals are posting massive losses as the coronavirus pandemic upends their traditional way of doing business.

Fitch Ratings analysts predict a grimmer second quarter: “the worst on record for most,” Kevin Holloran, senior director for Fitch, said during a Tuesday webinar.​

Over the past month, Fitch has revised its nonprofit hospital sector outlook from stable to negative. It has yet to change its ratings outlook to negative, though the possibility wasn’t ruled out.

Some have already seen the effects. Mayo estimates up to $3 billion in revenue losses from the onset of the pandemic until late April — given the system is operating “well below” normal capacity. It also announced employee furloughs and pay cuts, as several other hospitals have done.

Data released Tuesday from health cost nonprofit FAIR Health show how steep declines have been for larger hospitals in particular. The report looked at process claims for private insurance plans submitted by more than 60 payers for both nonprofit and for-profit hospitals.

Facilities with more than 250 beds saw average per-facility revenues based on estimated in-network amounts decline from $4.5 million in the first quarter of 2019 to $4.2 million in the first quarter of 2020. The gap was less pronounced in hospitals with 101 to 250 beds and not evident at all in those with 100 beds or fewer.

Funding from federal relief packages has helped offset losses at those larger hospitals to some degree.

Analysts from the ratings agency said those grants could help fill in around 30% to 50% of lost revenues, but won’t solve the issue on their own.

They also warned another surge of COVID-19 cases could happen as hospitals attempt to recover from the steep losses they felt during the first half of the year.

Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, warned lawmakers this week that the U.S. doesn’t have the necessary testing and surveillance infrastructure in place to prep for a fall resurgence of the coronavirus, a second wave that’s “entirely conceivable and possible.”

“If some areas, cities, states or what have you, jump over these various checkpoints and prematurely open up … we will start to see little spikes that may turn into outbreaks,” he told a Senate panel.

That could again overwhelm the healthcare system and financially devastate some on the way to recovery.

“Another extended time period without elective procedures would be very difficult for the sector to absorb,” Holloran said, suggesting if another wave occurs, such procedures should be evaluated on a case-by-case basis, not a state-by-state basis.

Hospitals in certain states and markets are better positioned to return to somewhat normal volumes later this year, analysts said, such as those with high growth and other wealth or income indicators. College towns and state capitols will fare best, they said.

Early reports of patients rescheduling postponed elective procedures provide some hope for returning to normal volumes.

“Initial expectations in reopened states have been a bit more positive than expected due to pent up demand,” Holloran said. But he cautioned there’s still a “real, honest fear about returning to a hospital.”

Moody’s Investors Service said this week nonprofit hospitals should expect the see the financial effects of the pandemic into next year and assistance from the federal government is unlikely to fully compensate them.

How quickly facilities are able to ramp up elective procedures will depend on geography, access to rapid testing, supply chains and patient fears about returning to a hospital, among other factors, the ratings agency said.

“There is considerable uncertainty regarding the willingness of patients — especially older patients and those considered high risk — to return to the health system for elective services,” according to the report. “Testing could also play an important role in establishing trust that it is safe to seek medical care, especially for nonemergency and elective services, before a vaccine is widely available.”

Hospitals have avoided major cash flow difficulties thanks to financial aid from the federal government, but will begin to face those issues as they repay Medicare advances. And the overall U.S. economy will be a key factor for hospitals as well, as job losses weaken the payer mix and drive down patient volumes and increase bad debt, Moody’s said.

Like other businesses, hospitals will have to adapt new safety protocols that will further strain resources and slow productivity, according to the report.​

Another trend brought by the pandemic is a drop in ER volumes. Patients are still going to emergency rooms, FAIR Health data show, but most often for respiratory illnesses. Admissions for pelvic pain and head injuries, among others declined in March.

“Hospitals may also be losing revenue from a widespread decrease in the number of patients visiting emergency rooms for non-COVID-19 care,” according to the report. “Many patients who would have otherwise gone to the ER have stayed away, presumably out of fear of catching COVID-19.”

 

Hospitals to face bumpy recovery with depressed margins into 2021, S&P predicts

https://www.healthcaredive.com/news/SP-ratings-hospital-margins-historic-lows-until-2021/578815/

April was the worst month ever for hospital operating margins

Dive Brief:

  • Despite rebounding patient volumes at some health systems, an overall slow and bumpy recovery period is most likely to last into next year, according to analysts with S&P Global Ratings. Operating margins will remain below historic levels for the rest of 2020 and into early 2021.
  • The ratings agency took negative action against companies in health sub-sectors facing more sudden and dramatic declines in business and now face less certain paths to recovery than others, such as dental companies, along with physical therapy and ambulatory surgery centers.
  • Medical staffing and physician groups were also downgraded or had their outlooks revised, due to major declines in emergency room and doctors office visits​ coupled with declining demand for anesthesia and radiology services related to delayed surgeries.

Dive Insight:

Federal relief grants are helping offset major financial losses for some health systems in the short-term, but factors like a second surge causing another total lockdown, rising unemployment and hesitancy from patients as they return to medical settings make long-term prospects unpredictable.

S&P Global Ratings said in a report this week that it took 36 negative actions in health services companies during the pandemic. The most affected sub-sector was dental companies. It also changed outlooks on ambulatory surgery centers given significant volume declines.

Hospitals and home healthcare were rated at moderate to high financial risk, though analysts expect those businesses to recover faster due to the more essential nature of their services, according to the report. And in the short-term, government relief funds will help bolster hospitals’ liquidity as they attempt to return to normal operations and recover from steep losses.

Delayed elective care that’s just restarting in some states led most hospitals to the financial fallout. But even hospitals treating a large number of COVID-19 patients will be hurt, as these patients are expensive to treat due to higher supply and labor costs, the report said.

It also found that nonprofit and for-profit operators could fare differently in their financial recoveries. Non-profit hospitals generally have larger cash reserves than for profit systems, which rely instead almost exclusively on cash flow and borrowings for liquidity.

Providers are relying specifically on the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act which allocated $100 billion for providers that they don’t have to pay back, though there has been some criticism about how the money was distributed and whether it advantages some providers over others.

Kaiser Family Foundation report found that CARES funding tends to favor for profit, higher margin hospitals with a higher mix of private payer revenue compared to those that rely on government payers such as Medicare and Medicaid.

Other legislation to help financially struggling health systems include advanced Medicare payments in the form of loans that must be paid back roughly four months after they are received.

The Paycheck Protection and Healthcare Enhancement Act passed in late April gave providers an additional $75 billion, though calculation and distribution methods have yet to be determined.

The U.S. House of Representatives also passed a $3 trillion bill dubbed the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (HEROES) Act that allocates $100 billion for provider reimbursement and creates special enrollment periods for Medicare and Affordable Care Act plans, though the Trump administration said it’s too soon for additional relief funding.

Lab companies were put in the moderate risk category, and seeing a “40% decline in lab tests net of COVID testing,” S&P said.

Still, it said despite the drop in overall testing for LabCorp and Quest Diagnostics, S&P predicted “their services to become even more important, and for their services to recover reasonably well as testing related to the pandemic continues to grow and as medical procedures and physician visits ramp-up through the rest of the year and into 2021.”

 

 

 

How the CFO enables the board’s success—during COVID-19 and beyond

https://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/strategy-and-corporate-finance/our-insights/how-the-cfo-enables-the-boards-success-during-covid-19-and-beyond?cid=other-eml-alt-mip-mck&hlkid=85d408119efe4175b478a0599b8302da&hctky=9502524&hdpid=ed9aa1f2-3c88-4b89-9cd2-61a12e2d602c

How the CFO can guide the board through crises and transformations ...

Two board experts explain how in times of crisis or transformation, the CFO can serve as a rock in the boardroom, a critical arbiter of difficult decisions, and a scout for the future.

Critical business decisions cannot be made unless management teams and boards of directors are on the same page. Transparency, fair and balanced dialogue, and well-structured processes for gaining agreement on strategic plans—these dynamics must be present in every boardroom, in good times and, especially, in bad.

The CFO plays an important role in ensuring that they are.

In crises, such as the global spread of the novel coronavirus, the CFO is best-positioned to provide the most relevant and up-to-date facts and figures, which can help boards find clarity amid chaos. In corporate transformations, the pragmatic, data-focused finance leader is the only one who can prompt the board to actively consider all the short- and long-term consequences of proposed strategy decisions.

Barbara Kux and Rick Haythornthwaite, longtime board directors for multiple global organizations, shared these and other board-related insights with McKinsey senior partner Vivian Hunt in a conversation that spanned two occasions: a gathering of CFOs in London some months ago and, more recently, follow-up phone conversations about the COVID-19 pandemic.

These interviews, which have been condensed and edited here, explained the importance of finance leaders in serving both as scouts for the future and as trusted translators of critical market information.

Shaping the COVID-19 crisis response and recovery

Rick Haythornthwaite: The board’s most important functions in the wake of COVID-19 are threefold: one is making sure that employees are being treated decently and that the company is taking all the precautions it can. Second is obtaining an objective, insightful understanding of the business and trends. And third is anticipating and preparing for recovery. The key in all three areas is having high-quality data to inform the board’s decisions and to share with employees. Of course, getting data from a market in freefall is never easy. This is where you need CFOs to be absolutely on top of their game.

The board needs to know what is really happening to the top line, what short-term measures can be taken to preserve and boost cash, and all the actions you have to take during the early stage of such events to buy time. But the board must also have a handle on long-term issues.1 And now that we’re months into this crisis, people are starting to draw lessons from previous ones and bringing some historical data into board discussions. The CFO can use these data to construct hard-edge scenarios that prompt good conversations in the boardroom.

Barbara Kux: An important difference in the role of CFOs today, as compared with their role during the financial crisis in 2008, is that they need to simultaneously manage both short-term responsiveness and future recovery. The CFO must keep the ship floating through rough waters—safeguarding employees’ health, securing liquidity, monitoring cash flow and payment terms, ensuring the functioning of the supply chain, assessing effects on P&L and the balance sheet, reviewing customers’ and suppliers’ situations, and initiating cost-reduction programs. That is all very challenging indeed. But then the CFO must also serve as the ship’s scout—watching for key trends that are emerging or that have accelerated as a result of COVID-19, such as digitization and changes in consumer behavior.

The balance between opportunity and risk is being altered substantially for most companies. The CEO could be tempted to profit from immediate demands—“let’s make ventilators, let’s make disinfectants.” The CFO’s job, by contrast, is to point out the differences between quick-to-market options and long-term post-COVID-19 options. These post-COVID-19 options can be an important factor in motivating and engaging employees during these challenging times.

It is also important for the CFO to present the board with reports and pre-reads that paint the entire picture in an objective way, including potential scenarios for the future. That is the only way boards and senior management can take thoughtful and well-founded decisions—first for the recovery and then for a sustainable future for all stakeholders. The word “crisis” has two meanings, one being “danger” and the other being “chance.” Today’s CFO must consider both.

The word ‘crisis’ has two meanings, one being ‘danger’ and the other being ‘chance.’ Today’s CFO must consider both.

Shaping the general transformation agenda

Barbara Kux: Outside of crisis periods, studies by INSEAD and McKinsey show, boards spend more than two-thirds of their time on “housekeeping”—financial reporting, compliance, environment, health and safety issues, regulatory issues, and the like. Only about 20 percent is spent on strategy. It is very important for boards to get out of this “compliance cage,” as I call it, and really focus on sustainable value creation. I’m thinking of the board of a leading oil and gas company that did just that. It recognized the importance of sustainable business development early on. The company gained first-mover advantages by diversifying toward a green business, including investing in solar and battery technologies.

At the end of the day, the board is ultimately responsible for the strategy, and the CFO is best-positioned to support strategy discussions. The finance leader can serve as a neutral party among the members of the C-suite, synthesizing their transformation ideas, supplementing them with comprehensive quantitative and qualitative data, and then working with the CEO to bring it all back to the board. This is even more important today to respond to COVID-19–related challenges early on.

Rick Haythornthwaite: The biggest challenge for any CEO, CFO, or other senior leader is to institutionalize new ideas without sucking the life out of them. Each C-suite leader plays a different but important role in this regard. The CFO needs to give transformation initiatives structure and rigor, while the CEO is probably better suited to take on the motivational aspects—for instance, the context for change and definitions of success. The whole team creates the strategy map—the markets and products affected, changes in pricing, the execution plan. But the CFO needs to ensure that the financial and operational underpinnings are there. Even if they are not visible to every single part of the organization, the board can see them through the CFO.

‘Scouting for the future’

Barbara Kux: To serve as an effective scout, the CFO should establish nonfinancial KPIs, like net promoter and employee-engagement scores, that are critical for the future health and performance of the organization. CFOs should review the strategy process to see that risks and opportunities are being well-assessed. And they can raise the political antennae of the board—accessing global think tanks, for instance, to understand what’s going on in Washington, China, and other important regions or in the medical community. The CEO often is not the most long-term–focused person in the organization; we know this because our financial markets are still very much short-term oriented. The board has to be long-term oriented. The CFO, therefore, must maintain a good balance of both. That might mean introducing a lean-transformation program with a focus on short-term results while, at the same time, contributing to the definition and implementation of a sustainable strategy for the company to emerge strong from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Rick Haythornthwaite: Boards need CEOs who can handle multiple truths, who can be expansive in thinking, and who can live comfortably in the future and bring the company along for the ride. The CFO also needs to be a protagonist in the boardroom, but from a different base: you can’t move to the future until you are anchored in the present. The CFO provides that anchor. Having a balance between future and present, between CEO and CFO, is important. The board wants to feel that there is strategic momentum—but also that the company is not just heading off on a journey of delusion.

Daring to dissent

Barbara Kux: It is important for the CEO and CFO to get on well, but their relationship should not be too close. It is better for the CFO to be objective, even if that sometimes leads to constructive conflicts. At times the CEO defaults to presenting only the positive in the boardroom, which makes it harder for the CFO to play back a more objective story. But that is very much the role of CFOs. They need to raise those early warnings. As a board director, I feel better if the CFO sometimes states, “by the way, we are losing market share here.” It takes a great deal of self-assurance for the CFO to come into the boardroom and say something like that. An independent-minded CFO will always be transparent with the board. A good CEO will always strive to establish an open relationship with the CFO. It is important for the board to motivate this constructive behavior from both executives so it can truly understand what is going well or not so well.

An independent-minded CFO will always be transparent with the board. A good CEO will always strive to establish an open relationship with the CFO.

Leading constructive dialogues

Rick Haythornthwaite: The senior-management team should not be delivering full solutions to the board at the outset; there should be a period of questions and discussion. The boardroom should be the place for CFOs and boards to engage in the cut and thrust of examination and exploration, with thoughtful planning and framing of dialogues to ensure that decision making is of the highest possible quality.

I’ll give you an example. CFOs used to be able to put traditional capital cases in front of the board about things like investments in plant and equipment, and there was typically a well-grooved dialogue. The kinds of actions they are talking about have changed, though. Think about companies’ investments in platform technologies, which can involve large sums being paid for targets with very low EBITDA—the idea being that value will ultimately come from the combination of entities rather than from a singular target.

Boards may be unfamiliar with such investment cases, so rather than jumping into quick, instinctive type-one decisions forced by the imposition of inappropriate and probably unnecessary time constraints, they will need an education. The board must take time to understand what, in practice, the acquisition of a platform would look like—how it might be scaled under new ownership, how that scaling would affect the bottom line, any risks involved, and so on. This is fundamentally a type-two decision, requiring time and deliberation. The CFO has an important role to play in making sure that this process happens, that it plays out over several board sessions rather than being squeezed into one meeting, and that conversations are grounded in hard numbers.

In the wake of COVID-19, of course, these dialogues may need to happen virtually; the quality of the conversation will still be good, as people are becoming accustomed to virtual meetings.2 They are fine for certain pro-forma tasks, where the issues are well-understood and processes are well-established. But when you’re trying to bring in new voices and new ideas, that’s when you need to be together in the same room.

Growing into the role of change agent

Barbara Kux: The role of the CFO is so much more expansive than it was even five years ago, including additional responsibility for cyber and digital transformations and for IT initiatives. To get your arms around the role and grow in it, take a step back and look at the company objectively. “What other roles could I play in the company, and how does that overlap with what I am doing now?” “Which initiatives would make the most impact in the company, and how could I realize quick wins in those areas?” Maybe it’s a focus on digital or compliance or export control or political intelligence. The CFO’s professional response to COVID-19 crisis management could be a springboard for future development. Whatever it is, I would identify it and just start. Take any kind of training you can get; read as many business publications as you can. Train yourself in how to deal with activist investors. Step by step, your hat will become bigger.

Rick Haythornthwaite: Whether you are talking about COVID-19 or digital disruption or any other impact on the business, please remember that the board still wants to sleep at night, and when the details are lost, the board will be much less forgiving of CFOs than of CEOs. Don’t forget that part of it. Particularly in this challenging economic environment, it is very important. Chairs and boards? We like to sleep soundly at night.

 

 

 

Beaumont-Summa merger on pause as COVID-19 batters hospitals

https://www.healthcaredive.com/news/beaumont-summa-merger-on-pause-as-covid-19-batters-hospitals/576535/

Dive Brief:

  • Michigan’s largest health system, Beaumont Health, is delaying its merger with Ohio-based Summa Health as the two continue to battle the coronavirus pandemic. “We didn’t plan this, but we are deferring that [the merger] until we have a little more clarity about the impact of this crisis,” Beaumont Health CEO John Fox said Wednesday.
  • Beaumont said it is temporarily laying off more than 2,400 employees, or nearly 7% of its workforce, as the pandemic has forced the system to halt inpatient and outpatient surgeries, cutting off an entire revenue stream. Among the job cuts, 450 positions have been permanently eliminated, while most of the other 2,400-plus positions involved administrative staff and others who are not directly caring for patients. Administrators have also said they’re taking pay cuts and Fox’s pay has been reduced by 70%.
  • The deal was recently approved by state and federal regulatory agencies, Summa Health told Healthcare Dive.

Dive Insight:

The deal is still on the table and the two are working on finalizing a path forward, Summa Health told Healthcare Dive.

“That said, the immediate priority is for both Summa and Beaumont to focus first and foremost on caring for our patients, employees, physicians and communities as we are impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic,” a spokesperson said.

The marriage between the two health systems is supposed to give Beaumont Health a foothold in Northeast Ohio, putting it in closer competition with Cleveland Clinic. In addition to its four hospitals, Summa also operates its own health plan, SummaCare, which provides coverage to 46,000 people.

Beaumont operates eight hospitals with 145 outpatient sites and has 38,000 employees.

Earlier this year, the two signed a definitive agreement and, together, Beaumont and Summa, are expected to create a $6.1 billion system in terms of total annual revenue with $4.7 billion from Beaumont and $1.4 billion from Summa.

However, the fallout from COVID-19 is likely to hamper those figures.

Beaumont reported a net loss of about $278 million during the first quarter of 2020, compared to about $408 million during the prior-year period. The system reported the virus only started affecting it in the last two weeks of March.