COVID-19 pushes Mayo Clinic’s operating income into free fall

Farrugia calls 2019 'a year of remarkable growth' as Mayo reports ...

Dive Brief:

  • Prior to the onset of the novel coronavirus, Mayo Clinic was cruising along with a healthy operating margin of 6.7% during the first two months of the quarter. But by the close of the period, the operating margin was squeezed to just 0.9% while net operating income fell off a cliff, free falling 88% to $29 million compared to the first quarter of 2019.
  • Due to contracting services and the near closure of its outpatient business in response to the pandemic, revenues for the quarter declined nearly 4% while expenses rose 3% compared to the prior-year period.
  • The fluctuation in the financial markets caused a downturn in Mayo’s investment portfolio, leading to an overall net loss of $623 million for the Rochester, Minnesota-based nonprofit health system.

Dive Insight:

Mayo Clinic is the latest hospital operator to report it first quarter results have been battered by the pandemic.

The system, which took in more than $1 billion in operating income in 2019, joins other major hospital operators that reported a dip in volumes amid the public health crisis, including HCA and CommonSpirit.

The second quarter is not likely to look better, according to Fitch Ratings. The second quarter looks bleak as the ratings agency issued an ominous report predicting it would be the “worst on record” for most nonprofit hospitals.

Yet, some of the for-profit hospital operators see May as the beginning of the recovery. Both Tenet and CHS executives seemed upbeat about the prospects for this month, noting it was the start of resuming elective procedures that had been put off.

Despite the hospital sector as a whole taking a major hit from the pandemic, big wealthy systems like Mayo have significant rainy day funds. Mayo reported cash and investments of more than $10.6 billion as of March 30 with 252 days cash on hand.

In April, Mayo issued a voluntary notice about how the virus was taking on its business, noting reduced salaries for executives and physicians, furloughs and a hiring freeze, among other efforts.​

In its first quarter report, Mayo detailed the ways in which it’s tackling the novel coronavirus on the medical front, including leading a program, approved by the FDA, that gives severely sick COVID-19 patients plasma from those who were previously sickened but have since recovered from the virus.

Mayo said it’s preparing the program’s first safety report on the first 5,000 patients to receive the infusion. As of May 12, more than 9,300 patients have been infused, Mayo said.

The system also runs COVID-19 testing, and said it is now able to administer 8,500 molecular tests and 20,000 serologic tests, which look for antibodies to the virus in those that may have been previously infected, daily.



CommonSpirit posts $1.4B loss, says full COVID-19 impact unknown

Locations | CommonSpirit Health

Dive Brief:

  • CommonSpirit Health, sprung from last year’s merger of California-based Dignity Health and Colorado-based Catholic Health Initiatives, reported a loss topping $1.4 billion in the fiscal third quarter ending March 31, although adjusted revenues were flat compared to the third quarter of 2019. The biggest proportion of losses were tied to investments, as its portfolio dropped in value by nearly $1.1 billion. Its total net assets are down nearly $2.5 billion from a year ago.
  • Like many other hospital systems, CommonSpirit reported a drop in patient volumes that began in mid-March as states began issuing lockdown orders. Acute admissions dropped more than 5% for the quarter compared to a year ago.
  • CommonSpirit did receive more than $700 million in Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act funds, although since it was received on March 31 it will be booked into its fiscal fourth quarter financial statements. The system received another $2.6 billion in accelerated payments from CMS and anticipates receiving another $410 million in disaster relief funding and from the Paycheck Protection Program.​

Dive Insight:

The COVID-19 pandemic is continuing to ravage the bottom lines of providers, and the nation’s largest not-for-profit hospital system, CommonSpirit Health, is no exception.

Its first full year as a unified system is 2020, and the COVID-19 pandemic is challenging the 134-hospital organization in ways it likely never anticipated. Admissions are down for the foreseeable future, coupled with the need to spend tens of millions of dollars on personal protective equipment, respirators and to divert a significant amount of resources toward treating coronavirus patients.

Fitch Ratings said COVID-19 is to blame for the worst second quarter for most U.S. hospitals and systems.

For the third quarter of 2020, CommonSpirit reported an operating loss of $145 million, compared to a pro forma $124 million loss reported by Dignity and CHI for the first quarter of 2019.

CommonSpirit posted a net loss of $1.4 billion for the third quarter, compared to a pro forma net gain of $9.7 billion for the third quarter of 2019. However, $9.2 billion of that came from what CommonSpirit termed a “contribution from business combination,” the net assets received from both parties by merging with one another. For the first nine months of fiscal 2020, CommonSpirit lost $1.1 billion on revenue of $22.4 billion, compared to a net gain of $9.5 billion on revenue of $21.6 billion over the same period in fiscal 2019.

And despite receiving some $3.7 billion in federal assistance, CommonSpirit said in its quarterly financial disclosures that it remains too soon to tell what the impact of COVID-19 will be on the organization over the long-term.

Prior to the pandemic, CommonSpirit’s financial position was trending stronger compared to its pre-merger state. Seven of its 14 operating divisions reported a jump in revenue during the quarter compared to 2019.





COVID-19 shreds Sutter Health’s finances in matter of weeks

Dive Brief:

  • Sutter Health, one of California’s largest and most powerful hospital networks, is getting pounded by losses related to the COVID-19 outbreak, according to a report issued to bondholders.
  • Sutter posted an operating loss of $236 million for the first quarter ending March 31, and a net loss of almost $1.1 billion. That’s even though California officials did not begin locking down activities in the state until the second part of March. Sutter saw an operating loss of $360 million in April alone, after the first quarter concluded, suggesting net losses for the second quarter could be even larger.
  • Much of the losses are attributed to the abrupt cutoff of patient flow to Sutter hospitals, clinics and medical offices. Only 5.7% of its intensive care unit beds are being used to treat COVID-19 patients, Sutter reported, and almost 32% of its ICU beds were unused as of May 11.

Dive Insight:

For decades, Sacramento-based Sutter Health has been considered the most powerful hospital operator in Northern California, with facilities throughout the Bay Area and even the more rural part of the state north of San Francisco. Critics allege its market dominance contributes to the long-term cost imbalance for hospital services between the northern and southern parts of the state.

Like many other chains and hospitals, it took only a few weeks of the COVID-19 outbreak and California’s statewide stay-at-home order to hamstring Sutter’s operations. Between March 17 and the end of April, inpatient bed days at Sutter hospitals declined by 23%, its ambulatory facilities have experienced volume declines of 73%, and emergency room visits were down 43%.

In the Wednesday note to bondholders, Sutter reported unaudited losses of $1.1 billion on revenue of $3.2 billion for the first quarter. It netted $394 million on revenue of $3.3 billion in the same period last year.

Sutter joins other large hospital networks such as the Mayo Clinic and Kaiser Permanente in reporting recent revenue losses related to COVID-19.

Yet the numbers for Sutter could get grimmer over the second quarter as revenue continues to sink. For April, it projects operating losses of $360 million and a negative operating margin of 50.5%, not counting congressional relief funds.

“Sutter anticipates in the near term at least a $300 million per month reduction in operating performance until containment of COVID-19,” it reported. It is also spending tens of millions of dollars to purchase equipment to confront a potential resurgence of COVID-19 this fall and winter — on top of some $57 million it has already spent to prepare for the pandemic.

As a result, Sutter says it has either cut the hours of about 5,000 of its employees, reassigned them or sent them for retraining.

While Sutter noted that California is slowly reopening the state after six weeks of shutdown, it remains to be seen whether patient flow will return to normal. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, warned this week that reopening too soon could lead to a spike in new coronavirus cases.

The funds Sutter has received from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act have alleviated the financial pain to some extent. It has received $205 million to date, plus another $1 billion in accelerated Medicare claims payments from CMS. Factoring that in, Sutter says April operating losses would be cut to $168 million.

Sutter is also sitting on about $6 billion in cash and liquid investments, but notes it has lost $500 million from its portfolio since the start of the year. It has also borrowed $400 million from a $500 million credit line so far this year and obtained another $100 million credit line last month.





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

Nicklaus Children's Health System Receives A+ Rating from Fitch ...

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.”




Tower Health takes financial hit from COVID-19, Epic install costs – Architecture | Engineering | Interiors

Tower Health reported higher revenue in the nine months ended March 31, but the West Reading, Pa.-based health system ended the period with an operating loss, according to recently released unaudited financial documents.

The health system reported revenue of $1.6 billion in the first three quarters of fiscal year 2020, up 13.8 percent from $1.4 billion a year earlier. Higher expenses and reductions in patient volume in the most recent quarter due to the COVID-19 pandemic hindered further revenue growth.

Tower Health said expenses climbed 19.2 percent year over year to $1.7 billion in the nine months ended March 31. In the first three quarters of fiscal 2020, the health system recorded $27.1 million in one-time expenses$7 million related to Epic implementation costs at newly acquired hospitals, and the remainder was related to other one-time transaction costs.

The health system said it had 102 days cash on hand as of March 31, down 52 days from a year earlier. The decrease was primarily due to Epic implementation costs and integration expenses, Tower said.

The health system said it has made significant revenue cycle improvements and expects progress to continue.

“During the COVID-19 crisis revenue cycle management is aggressively pursuing advanced payments and outstanding claim resolution from all major commercial payors as well as ensuring capture of additional reimbursement for services such as telemedicine,” Tower said.

The health system ended the first three quarters of fiscal 2020 with an operating loss of $131.9 million, compared to an operating loss of $48.5 million in the same period a year earlier. 

After factoring in nonoperating losses, Tower Health recorded a net loss of $153.9 million in the first three quarters of fiscal 2020. In the same period a year earlier, it reported a net loss of $29.3 million. 

To offset financial damage from COVID-19, Tower Health has furloughed about 1,000 employees and received $166 million in advance Medicare payments, which must be repaid. The health system also received $66 million in grants under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act.


16 latest hospital credit rating downgrades

20 recent hospital, health system outlook and credit rating ...

The following 16 hospital and health system credit rating downgrades occurred since March 1. They are listed below in alphabetical order.

1. Boulder (Colo.) Community Health — from “A2” to “A3” (Moody’s Investors Service)

2. Butler (Pa.) Health System — from “Baa1” to “Baa2” (Moody’s Investors Service)

3. Catholic Health System (Buffalo, N.Y.) — from “Baa1” to “Baa2” (Moody’s Investors Service)

4. Catholic Medical Center (Manchester, N.H.) — from “Baa1” to “Baa2” (Moody’s Investors Service)

5. Hutchinson (Kan.) Regional Medical Center — from “Baa3” to “Ba1” (Moody’s Investors Service)

6. Magnolia Regional Health Center (Corinth, Miss.) — from “Ba3” to “B1” (Moody’s Investors Service)

7. Marshall Medical Center (Placerville, Calif.) — from “BBB-” to “BB+” (Fitch Ratings)

8. Prisma Health (Greenville, S.C.) — from “A2” to “A3” (Moody’s Investors Service)

9. Quorum Health (Brentood, Tenn.) — from “Caa2” to “Ca” (Moody’s Investors Service)

10. SoutheastHealth (Cape Girardeau, Mo.) — from “Baa3” to “Ba1” (Moody’s Investors Service)

11. Sutter Health (Sacramento, Calif.) — from “Aa3” to “A1” (Moody’s Investors Service); from “AA-” to “A+” (S&P Global Ratings)

12. University of Vermont Health Network (Burlington) — from “A2” to “A3” (Moody’s Investors Service)

13. UPMC (Pittsburgh) — from “A+” to “A” (Fitch Ratings); from “A1” to “A2” (Moody’s Investors Service)

14. Virginia Mason Medical Center (Seattle) — from “Baa2” to “Baa3” (Moody’s Investors Service)

15. Washington County (Calif.) Health Care District — from “Baa1” to “Baa2”  (Moody’s Investors Service)

16. Wood County Hospital (Bowling Green, Ky.) — from “Ba2” to “Ba3” (Moody’s Investors Service)





Kaiser Permanente reports $1.1B loss in Q1

Kaiser Permanente building infrastructure to 'connect the dots ...

Kaiser Permanente reported a $1.1 billion loss in the first quarter—a drop from $3.2 billion in income in the first quarter a year earlier, blamed largely on investment losses. 

Kaiser Foundation Health Plan and Hospitals saw operating revenues of $22.6 billion and total operating expenses of $21.4 billion. That was up compared to total operating revenues of $21.3 billion and total operating expenses of $19.8 billion in the same period of the prior year.

Operating income was $1.3 billion or 5.5% of total operating revenues in the first quarter of this year, compared to $1.5 billion or 7.2% in the first quarter of 2019.

Typically, the healthcare group sees its strongest operating margin in the first quarter due to the timing of open enrollment. Instead, that margin sustained a major blow with $2.4 billion in investment losses in the first quarter of 2020 compared to a first-quarter gain of $1.6 billion in 2019.

Kaiser said its first-quarter results also reflect costs incurred from surge planning, equipment and preparations in response to the COVID-19 pandemic in the tail end of the first quarter. The full cost of that planning, as well as economic and membership impacts of the pandemic, aren’t yet known, they said. The full cost of surge planning, as well as the overall economic and membership impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic are not yet known. Kaiser Permanente established mobile hospitals and triage units, recommissioned retired units, increased inpatient capacity and acquired additional equipment to prepare for the potential surge, officials said.

“Even with all this rapidly escalating preparation and direct care delivery, only a small portion of the financial effects of the pandemic, in terms of lost revenue and increased costs, was experienced in the first quarter,” said Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer Kathy Lancaster in a statement.

Kaiser Permanente is one of the largest nonprofit healthcare plans in the U.S., with over 12 million members. It operates 39 hospitals and more than 700 medical offices. 

Kaiser Permanente is among many health systems giants that have reported major financial hits in the first quarter including publicly traded health systems Tenet Health, Community Health Systems, Universal Health Systems and HCA Healthcare. However, most major payers have indicated they were largely able to weather the financial storm caused by COVID-19 in the first quarter.