Operating margins for systems and hospitals continued to decline due to increasing expense pressures as well as slowing net patient revenue growth across all rating levels.


Strong balance sheets and capable leadership continue to lead the way for stable success.

M&A activity has bolstered the financial standing and credit ratings of not-for-profit health systems.

Not-for-profit systems are outnumbering stand-alone hospitals through increased M&A activity.

Stand-alone hospitals experienced their second consecutive year of negative outlooks.

Not-for-profit health systems and stand-alone hospitals have maintained generally favorable bond ratings due in large part to strong balance sheets, despite the continual decline in operating margins and cash flows.

S&P Global Ratings released research this week on the financial status of not-for-profit health systems and stand-alone hospitals in 2017.

The sector remained consistent in several year-to-year, such as improving days’ cash-on-hand levels and marginal reduction in debt levels, though the study found that the underlying pressures on not-for-profits are beginning to take their toll. The operating margin for the sector declined from 2.4% in 2016 to 1.8% in 2017.

S&P also noted that not-for-profit health systems continue to outnumber stand-alone hospitals and received stronger overall ratings from the agency.


  • 152 total affirmations
  • 16 total upgrades, though six upgrades were driven by systems merging together.
  • 15 total downgrades

S&P said a major factor that allowed health systems and hospitals to weather financial challenges last year was the combination of strong balance sheets and leadership. 


  • Robust M&A activity has improved the financial profile for systems.
  • Despite the same challenges with maintaining an overall patient base, systems have experienced a growth in outpatient services.
  • Sizable investments in information technology have resulted in strong credit ratings.

S&P analysts said that stand-alone hospitals featured stronger medians than systems but found they are weakening. This is due to softer patient volumes, a weakening payor mix combined with increased pressure from commercial payors, and labor expenses. 


  • While the amount of stand-alone hospitals are shrinking, they produced stable balance sheets that were noted as a “principal strength of financial profile.
  • Debt levels fell due to declining unrestricted net assets.
  • However, negative operating margins appeared in BBB rating levels.


Fitch brightens its view on nonprofit hospitals

Dive Brief:

  • Fitch Ratings said its “Rating Watch” for U.S. nonprofit hospitals and health systems is over after the organizations showed improved or stable results this year.
  • During a six-month review of 125 existing issuers, Fitch affirmed 52% of the graded facilities and upgraded 28%.
  • More than 93% of rating changes moved only one to two notches. There were two extreme outliers. Fitch downgraded Lexington Medical Center six notches due to pension liability. Presence Health Network, meanwhile, shot up seven notches.

Dive Insight:

Fitch’s move is a sign of optimism for nonprofits reeling from years of wobbly financial times. The report comes months after Moody’s revised its outlook for the sector from stable to negative. That move followed nonprofit hospitals seeing more credit downgrades in 2017.

Nevertheless, Fitch’s announcement this week shows that hospitals are finding ways to combat tough finances, including lower reimbursements and inpatient admissions. One way acute care hospitals confront those issues is by investing in outpatient services. The strategy helps health systems defend market share.

At the end of 2017, Fitch said investing in outpatient assets is usually favorable for credit profiles, but also leads to “more economic cyclicality and seasonality in patient volumes for hospital companies.”

In its report this week, Fitch said a hospital’s cash and investment portfolio and asset allocation policy play significant roles in its creditworthiness. Balance sheet strength is also an essential piece of ratings — more than operational success or size and scale.

Fitch said size and scale are no longer direct rating factors. However, Fitch may consider if the size and scale enhance or weaken its ability to provide rating stability.

“As borne out by Fitch’s rating actions, it is apparent that providers with strong net leverage are able to withstand potential financial pressures and return to existing rating levels more quickly than credits without strong balance sheet metrics,” the ratings agency said.

Fitch’s review of 125 existing issuers was just under half of its total acute portfolio. Fitch Ratings Senior Director Kevin Holloran said it’s somewhat surprising there were more upgrades than downgrades.

About half of the upgrades were connected to criteria revision, 14% based on credit reasons and 34% because of a combination of credit and criteria reasons. On the other end, about half of downgrades were based on criteria review, 24% on credit reasons and 24% on a combination of credit and criteria factors.

Holloran said upgrades were mostly from “long-time consistent performers that benefited from a ‘new look’ through the lens of our upgraded criteria.” Downgrades were more varied, but balance sheet strength played a pivotal role in predictable credit stability.

Fitch said the future rating trajectory for nonprofit hospitals is “normalcy.” That said, Holloran noted that the sector is dealing with multiple operational challenges this year. Those issues, including external factors, such as regulations and legislation, could drag into 2019.




15 recent hospital, health system outlook and credit rating actions

The following hospital and health system credit rating and outlook changes and affirmations occurred in the last week, beginning with the most recent.

1. S&P downgrades Westchester County Health Care to ‘BBB-‘
S&P Global Ratings downgraded Valhalla, N.Y.-based Westchester County Health Care’s revenue and refunding bonds to “BBB-” from “BBB.”

2. S&P revises UAB Medicine’s outlook to negative over weaker operations
S&P Global Ratings revised Birmingham, Ala.-based UAB Medicine’s outlook to negative from stable.

3. S&P upgrades Torrance Memorial Medical Center’s rating to ‘A’
S&P Global Ratings upgraded its long-term and underlying rating on Torrance (Calif.) Memorial Medical Center’s outstanding debt to “A” from “BBB.”

4. Moody’s affirms ‘A1’ rating on ProHealth Care
Moody’s Investors Service affirmed its “A1” rating on Waukesha, Wis.-based ProHealth Care, affecting $181 million of outstanding debt.

5. Moody’s assigns ‘Baa1’ to Baptist Healthcare System’s bonds
Moody’s Investors Service assigned its “Baa1” rating to Louisville-based Baptist Healthcare System’s proposed $130 million series 2018A revenue refunding bonds. At the same time, Moody’s upgraded the health system’s parity debt to “Baa1” from “Baa2,” affecting $442 million of debt.

6. S&P assigns ‘BBB+’ rating to CHI’s bonds
S&P Global Ratings assigned its “BBB+” long-term rating on Englewood, Colo.-based Catholic Health Initiatives’ proposed $275 million series 2018A bonds.

7. S&P places Essentia Health on credit watch negative
S&P Global Ratings placed its “A” underlying rating on Duluth, Minn.-based Essentia Health on credit watch with negative implications.

8. S&P revises Halifax Hospital Medical Center’s outlook to negative over litigation risks
S&P Global Ratings affirmed its “A-” long-term rating on Daytona Beach, Fla.-based Halifax Hospital Medical Center’s revenue bonds and revised the outlook to negative from stable.

9. Fitch assigns ‘AA’ IDR to Advocate Aurora Health
Fitch Ratings assigned an issuer default rating of “AA” to Advocate Aurora Health — the entity formed by the recent merger of Downers Grove, Ill.-based Advocate Health Care and Milwaukee-based Aurora Health.

10. Fitch affirms Nebraska Medicine’s ‘AA-‘ rating
Fitch Ratings affirmed its “AA-” rating on Omaha-based Nebraska Medicine’s outstanding bonds. Concurrently, Fitch assigned its “AA-” issuer default rating to the academic healthcare provider.

11. Fitch affirms ‘AA’ rating on Presbyterian Healthcare
Fitch Ratings affirmed its “AA” rating of Albuquerque, N.M.-based Presbyterian Healthcare Services’ outstanding bonds, affecting $850 billion of debt. At the same time, Fitch assigned its “AA” issuer default rating to the health system.

12. Moody’s affirms ‘Aa3’ rating on Main Line Health
Moody’s Investors Service affirmed its “Aa3” rating on Philadelphia-based Main Line Health’s outstanding bonds, affecting $219.5 million of debt.

13. Moody’s downgrades Lafayette General Medical Center
Moody’s Investors Service downgraded its rating on Lafayette (La.) General Medical Center to “Baa2” from “Baa1,” affecting $147 million of rated debt.

14. Moody’s affirms SCL Health’s ‘Aa3’ rating
Moody’s Investors Service affirmed its “Aa3” long-term rating on Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth (Kan.) Health System, which does business as SCL Health. The rating affects about $1.2 billion of debt.

15. S&P ratings on ProMedica debt unchanged after HCR ManorCare acquisition
ProMedica’s acquisition of Toledo-based nursing home chain HCR ManorCare will not immediately affect its “A+” long-term ratings on the Ohio-based health system’s debt, according to S&P Global Ratings.




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For CEOs, market share is critical. But measurement of it, and tactics to grow it, are getting more complicated as patients connect with providers in more sophisticated ways.

Health system CEOs have always worked to meet their mission of caring for the poor and underserved and improving the health of their community. They often cite that mission as their top priority. But in truth, they are evaluated by how well they grow revenue and margin, both of which come through expanding market share.

Market share used to be easy to define. CEOs counted on a reliably increasing reimbursement model that exceeded inflation and an aging population that meant more hospital days every year. No longer. But even though market share growth is much more complex now, failing to achieve that growth could mean termination.

To win the market share battle, healthcare organizations must first redefine what it is (see the sidebar on new market share proxies) and then build strategies that take advantage of the shifts in healthcare delivery. Here’s how three healthcare leaders are doing it.


Michael Dowling, president and CEO of Northwell Health in Great Neck, New York, acknowledges the need to provide access, value, and convenience for consumers who are increasingly looking for a wide-ranging array of services offered by a single health system. The key to this strategy is the consumer as the focal point of healthcare decision-making.

Northwell is currently investing heavily in home health and digital care access, including a major initiative in telemedicine, but tying it all together into a seamless consumer experience is critical.

“You need hospitals as anchors, but the strategy is very consumer-focused in providing access and convenience,” Dowling says. “We’ve been doing this for 10 years, and it’s one of the reasons we’ve grown to being one of the biggest players in the New York City market. It’s the interconnection of all these pieces that makes all the difference.”

Although it’s not a perfect analogy, Dowling says Northwell wants to emulate Starbucks’ approach to market coverage. It’s not a location on every street corner, but it’s close.

“The traditional way of looking at market share isn’t valid anymore.”

—Chris Van Gorder

Also, getting critical market share mass in a variety of modalities is necessary to becoming the viable narrow network that employers and insurers are looking for. Smart health systems are spending more on smaller facilities, like micro-hospitals, or on freestanding ERs, homecare, urgent care centers, and telehealth capabilities. Such investment aims to meet the everyday health needs of consumers, not just provide for their increasingly rare inpatient stays.

This means focusing on organic growth that complements or even stands alone from the inpatient realm rather than buying hospitals, for example. Specialized areas of investment in both inpatient and outpatient care are the usual profitable service lines, such as orthopedics, neurology, and cardiac care, says Dowling.

He says he seeks two kinds of market share when it comes to reimbursement: Medicare and Medicaid, and commercial. Both kinds are needed to serve the community comprehensively, he says, but only one of the two makes a margin. Patients don’t see that distinction, though, and Northwell must serve them all.

“[Commercial] is what everyone’s going after,” he says. “So, you try to be the preferred provider. You take market share from competitors by developing the physician relationship and by the expansion of ambulatory. We’ve built a massive ambulatory network with over 650 locations. It’s a marketing and consumer experience strategy. If patients are not happy with experience, they will go somewhere else, so it’s multifaceted.”

Hospital-centric organizations used to measure market share in terms of inpatient volume or discharges, but as more services have moved outside the hospital environment, those have become less reliable measures of success.

“We’re all moving toward understanding that the consumer is the determinant of success, rather than just the patient care business,” says Dowling. “The consumer is going to be determining how they want care and where, and since more of it is not needed in the hospital, you have to create locations for cancer care and imaging and surgery where it can be done on an ambulatory basis.”


Chris Van Gorder, the longtime president and CEO of Scripps Health in San Diego, is content with a level of uncertainty around market share, and says that growing it depends partially on instinct in a time of upheaval.

“Market share’s an odd thing. Everyone still wants to gain commercial market share, of course,” he says. “But today we’re not so focused on the inpatient side. We’re doing total hips on the ambulatory side. So, the traditional way of looking at market share isn’t valid anymore.”

Even though the discharge-based methodology isn’t as relevant as it used to be, it’s still important. Rating agencies still use discharges as an important tool to measure financial health, and with the relative lack of precise alternatives, discharges can be an important factor in how they determine borrowing capacity and interest rate terms for healthcare organizations.

“As an industry, we have to figure that out,” Van Gorder says. “Rating agencies use discharges, but you could be reducing that number and getting stronger as an organization.”

Scripps went through its rating agency sessions about three months ago and has seen a small decline in those traditional market share measures, but Van Gorder says those measures don’t tell the full story anymore. Scripps’ market is dominated by three major players: itself, Kaiser Permanente, and Sharp HealthCare, so fluctuations in discharges are often small and at the edges.

Rating agencies are smart enough to recognize that healthcare is changing, Van Gorder says. For example, they know it’s the right strategy to move to ambulatory, and Scripps experienced growth in covered lives in its health plan, which is part of Scripps’ strategy to build its own narrow network. But even rating agencies are frustrated that there’s no metric to enable consistent comparisons, he says.

“We still talk about market share because I still need to make sure the hospitals are occupied enough. Half-full hospitals are the fastest way to go bankrupt,” he says.

Scripps is strong in cardiovascular services, particularly interventional cardiology. “So, we focus on maintaining our strength in that area and in ortho, which is becoming much more ambulatory than it used to be,” says Van Gorder.

One area where it’s not as strong is cancer, he says, even though Scripps is a major oncology provider in San Diego. To maintain and even buttress that market share, the health system has partnered with Houston’s MD Anderson Cancer Center to build a new comprehensive cancer program that started treating patients this summer.

“[MD Anderson] is building a network strategy, and they have 23,000 people just working on cancer, so we are taking advantage of their knowledge to make us stronger,” he says. “It was a market share play, but it’s much more than just that, with increased access to research and clinical trials.”

Facing fierce competition in ambulatory, Van Gorder says the health system is focusing on areas where it’s strongest and trying to grow there.

In all areas, he says Scripps must aggressively focus on cutting costs, because he sees cost as a proxy for quality. In fact, he notes, cost may be the major limitation for most health systems in growing market share for the foreseeable future.

“People are paying more out of pocket to come in, and insurance companies have gotten so good at narrow networks,” he says. “People tell me you can’t lead with cost, and I say no. Cost is a quality indicator.”


Safety-net hospitals, such as Grady Health System in Atlanta, have historically been overrun by mission patients—that is, patients who do not bring margin, such as Medicaid patients. But its leadership has recognized that the health system needs to be more competitive in commercial patients.

For Grady, that hasn’t meant investment in traditional service lines, but instead investment in highly complex tertiary and quaternary services that can’t easily be found elsewhere in its market, says John Haupert, its president and CEO. With seed funding from philanthropic sources, Grady has made multimillion-dollar investments in stroke and neurological surgery, interventional cardiology, and surgical subspecialties.

“In our case, it was a matter of survival. If all your patients are Medicaid or unfunded, you’re not going to be in business. Part of Grady coming back to life 10 years ago involved developing strategies to grow in funding the mission,” says Haupert.

The complex cases that have come from Grady’s recent investments weren’t previously present in the market. Unlike many organizations, Grady needed to create additional inpatient capacity to maximize those investments in capital and talent. It will soon be operating around 700 occupied beds; 10 years ago, it was barely operating 400. It’s building new outpatient facilities as well, expanding ambulatory surgical and oncology capacity across the street to free up space in the main facility where its cancer center is now.

“In the next three years, we’ll have 750 beds in operation,” Haupert says. “We’ve gone from 9% to 20% commercial. That helps with sustainability.”


Can A Community Hospital Stick To Its Mission When It Goes For-Profit?

Proponents of hospital mergers say the change can help struggling nonprofit hospitals "thrive," with an infusion of cash to invest in updated technology and top clinical staff. But research shows the price of care, especially for low-income patients, usually rises when a hospital joins a for-profit corporation.

Mission Health, the largest hospital system in western North Carolina, provided $100 million in free charity care last year. This year, it has partnered with 17 civic organizations to deliver care for substance abuse by people who are low-income.

Based in bucolic Asheville, the six-hospital system also screens residents for food insecurity; provides free dental care to children in rural areas via the “ToothBus” mobile clinic; helps the homeless find permanent housing and encourages its 12,000 employees to volunteer at schools, churches and nonprofit groups.

Asheville residents say the hospital is an essential resource.

“Mission Health helped saved my life,” says Susan ReMine, a 68-year-old Asheville resident for 30 years who now lives in nearby Fletcher, N.C. She was in Mission Health’s main hospital in Asheville for three weeks last fall with kidney failure. And, from 2006 to 2008, a Mission Health-supported program called Project Access provided ReMine with free care after she lost her job because of illness.

After 130 years as a nonprofit with deep roots in the community, Mission Health announced in March that it was seeking to be bought by HCA Healthcare, the nation’s largest for-profit hospital chain. HCA owns 178 hospitals in 20 states and the United Kingdom.

The pending sale reflects a controversial national trend in the U.S. as hospitals consolidate at an accelerating pace and the cost of health care continues to rise.

“We understand the business reasons [for the deal], but our overwhelming concern is the price of health care,” says Ron Freeman, chief financial officer at Ingles Markets, a supermarket chain headquartered in Asheville with 200 stores in six states.

“Will HCA after a few years start to press the hospital to make more profit by raising prices? We don’t know,” Freeman says.

And the local newspaper, the Citizen Timeseditorialized in March: “How does it help to join a corporation where nearly $3 billion that could have gone to health care instead was recorded as profit? … We would feel better were Western North Carolina’s leading health-care provider to remain master of its own fate.”

Across the U.S., the acquisition of nonprofit hospitals by corporations is raising concern among some advocates for patients and communities.

“The main motivation of for-profit companies is to grow so they can cut costs, get paid more and maximize profits,” says Suzanne Delbanco, executive director of the Catalyst for Payment Reform, an employer-led health care think tank and advocacy group. “They are not as focused on improving access to care or the community’s overall health.”

Merger mania across the U.S.

From 2013 to 2017, nearly 1 in 5 of the nation’s 5,500-plus hospitals were acquired or merged with another hospital, according to Irving Levin Associates, a health care analytics firm in Norwalk, Conn. Industry analysts say for-profit hospital companies are poised to grow more rapidly as they buy up both for-profits and nonprofits — potentially altering the character and role of public health-oriented nonprofits.

Nonprofit hospitals are exempt from state and local taxes. In return, they must provide community services and care to poor and uninsured patients — a commitment that is honored to varying degrees nationwide.

Of the nation’s 4,840 general hospitals that aren’t run by the federal government, 2,849 are nonprofit, 1,035 are for-profit and 956 are owned by state or local governments, according to the American Hospital Association.

In 2017, 29 for-profit companies bought 18 for-profit hospitals and 11 not-for-profits, according to an analysis for Kaiser Health News by Irving Levin Associates.

Sales can go the other way, too: 53 nonprofit hospital companies bought 18 for-profits as well as 35 nonprofits in 2017.

A recent report by Moody’s Investors Service predicted stable growth for for-profit hospital companies, saying they are well-positioned to demand higher rates from insurers and have less exposure to the lower rates paid by government insurance programs such as Medicare and Medicaid. In contrast, a second Moody’s report downgraded — from stable to negative — its 2018 forecast for the not-for-profit hospital sector.

‘We wanted to thrive, and not just survive’

Ron Paulus, Mission Health’s president and CEO, says he and the hospital’s 19-member board concluded last year that the future of Mission Health was iffy at best without a merger.

HCA declined to make anyone available for an interview but provided this written statement: “We are excited about the prospect of a transaction that would allow us to support the caliber of care they [Mission Health hospitals] have been providing.”

Driving Mission Health’s decision, Paulus says, were strained finances and the board’s strong feeling that the hospital needed to invest in new technology, modern data management tools and top clinical talent.

“We wanted to thrive and not just survive,” he says. “I had a healthy dose of skepticism about HCA at first. But I think we made the right decision.”

During the past four years, Paulus says, the company has had to cut costs — from between $50 million and $80 million a year — to preserve an “acceptable operating margin.” The forecast for 2019 and 2020, he says, saw the gap between revenue and expenses rising to $150 million a year.

Miriam Schwarz, executive director of the Western Carolina Medical Society, says many physicians in the area were surprised by the move and “are trying to grapple with the shift.”

“There’s concern about the community benefits, but also job loss,” Schwarz says. Still, she adds, the doctors in her region “do recognize that the hospital must become more financially secure.”

Weighed against community concerns is the prospect of a large nonprofit foundation created by the deal. Depending on the final price, the foundation could have close to $2 billion in assets.

Creation of such foundations is common when for-profit companies buy nonprofit hospitals or insurance companies. Paulus says the foundation created from Mission Health could generate $50 million or more a year to — among other initiatives — “test new care models such as home-based care … and address the causes of poor health in the community in the first place.”

In addition, HCA will have to pay upward of $10 million in state and local taxes.

Mixed results

Industry analysts say the hospital merger and consolidation trend nationwide is inevitable given the powerful forces afoot in health care.

That includes pressure to lower prices and costs and improve quality, safety and efficiency; to modernize information technology systems and equipment; and to do more to improve overall health.

But academics and consumer advocates say hospital consolidation yields mixed results. While mergers — especially purchases by for-profit companies — provide much-needed capital and financial stability, competition is stifled, and that’s often led to higher prices.

Martin Gaynor, a professor of economics and health policy at Carnegie Mellon University, and colleagues examined 366 hospital mergers from 2007 to 2011 and found that prices were, on average, 12 percent higher in areas where one hospital dominated the market versus areas with at least four rivals. Another recent study found that 90 percent of U.S. cities today have a “highly concentrated” hospital market. Asheville is one, and Mission Health is dominant there.

“The evidence is overwhelming at this point,” Gaynor says. “Mergers solve some problems for hospitals, but they don’t make health care less expensive or better. In fact, prices usually go up.”

Mission Health CEO Paulus says he believes HCA is committed to restraining price increases and the growth in costs.

If no obstacles arise, Paulus says, HCA’s purchase of Mission Health would be formalized in August and finalized in November or December, pending state regulatory approval.






The insurer saw solid year-over-year growth in a variety of aspects, leading the company to raise its outlook for net earnings to end the year.

UnitedHealth Group posted $4.2 billion earnings from operations, an increase of 13% year-over-year, according to its second-quarter earnings report released Tuesday.

The results marked another strong quarter for the insurer, which saw its earnings from operations grow from $3.7 billion during Q2 2017, and even increase from $4.1 billion in Q1 2018. Compared to this time last year, UnitedHealth increased its overall revenues by $6 billion, improving its net margin to 5.2%.

“Today, UnitedHealth Group delivers increasing value to more people, driven by strong execution, consistently high quality, deep relationships and our distinctive combination of clinical, technology and information capabilities. As we look ahead, we will drive our growth on the strength of practical innovations that anticipate and respond to increasing consumer expectations and clear social needs,” UnitedHealth Group CEO David Wichmann said in a statement.

UnitedHealth’s consistent, improved performance comes as insurers brace for the widespread introduction of association health plans and short-term health plans. The health plan juggernaut is so enthused by its first-half financial performance that it raised its outlook for end-of-year adjusted earnings to $12.50 to $12.75 per share. After Q1, UnitedHealth projected a range of adjusted net earnings per share from $12.40 to $12.65. Meanwhile, GAAP diluted earnings ranged between $11.80 to $12.05 per share.

Moody’s Vice President Dean Unger said in a statement Tuesday that UnitedHealth’s leverage remains high and will increase slightly after the company finalizes its acquisition of DaVita Medical Group.

“But the pharmacy benefits manager and analytics business were also solid,” Unger said. “UnitedHealth’s scale, diversity and consistent and disciplined growth continue to support our A3 long-term issuer rating.”

Below are some additional highlights from UnitedHealth’s Q2 earnings report:

  • UnitedHealth posted cash flows from operations totalling $4 billion.

  • The insurer’s adjusted net earnings per share also grew 27.6%.

  • UnitedHealthcare added 2.2 million more consumers year-over-year.

  • Optum’s earnings from operations grew by 21.5% year-over-year to $1.8 billion.

Additional information is available in UnitedHealth’s filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.



Moody’s: Nonprofit hospital rating downgrades rose sharply in 2017

Image result for hospital downgrades

Despite a strong economy and low uninsured population, nonprofit hospital rating downgrades sharply outpaced upgrades throughout 2017 — creating a downgrade-to-upgrade ratio of 3.4 to 1.0, which is more than double the 2016 ratio of 1.5 to 1.0, according to a new report by Moody’s Investors Service.

In 2017, there were 41 credit downgrades and 12 credit upgrades for nonprofit hospitals, compared to 32 credit downgrades and 21 credit upgrades in 2016.

Moody’s attributed the credit stress in 2017 to rising labor and supply costs coupled with a low revenue growth environment.

“An acute nursing shortage in many markets, along with rising supply and pharmaceutical costs, resulted in expense growth outpacing revenue growth for many hospitals and health systems,” the Moody’s report reads.

While hospitals of all sizes were downgraded, 60 percent of the downgrades in 2017 affected smaller health systems with less than $1 billion in total operating revenue. In addition, 12 of the downgrades occurred in Pennsylvania and Ohio, reflecting the lagging economy, aging demographics, competitive service area and commercial payer challenges in the Rust Belt area.

Although downgrades outpaced upgrades in 2017, Moody’s affirmed the vast majority of ratings in 2017, which is in line with historical trends.