450 hospitals at risk of potential closure, Morgan Stanley analysis finds

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-08-21/hospitals-are-getting-eaten-away-by-market-trends-analysts-say

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More than 15 percent of U.S. hospitals have weak financial metrics or are at risk of potential closure, according to Business Insider, which cited a recent report from Morgan Stanley.

Morgan Stanley analyzed data from more than 6,000 hospitals and found 600 of the hospitals were “weak” based on criteria for margins for earnings before interest and other items, occupancy and revenue, according to Bloomberg. The analysis revealed another 450 hospitals were at risk of potential closure, according to Business Insider

Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Kansas, Tennessee and Pennsylvania had the highest concentration of hospitals in the “at risk” pool, according to the report.

Industry M&A may be no savior as the pace of hospital closures, particularly in hard-to-reach rural areas, seems poised to accelerate.

Hospitals have been closing at a rate of about 30 a year, according to the American Hospital Association, and patients living far from major cities may be left with even fewer hospital choices as insurers push them toward online providers like Teladoc Inc. and clinics such as CVS Health Corp’s MinuteClinic.

Morgan Stanley analysts led by Vikram Malhotra looked at data from roughly 6,000 U.S. private and public hospitals and concluded eight percent are at risk of closing; another 10 percent are considered “weak.” The firm defined weak hospitals based on criteria for margins for earnings before interest and other items, occupancy and revenue. The “at risk” group was defined by capital expenditures and efficiency, among others.

The next year to 18 months should see an increase in shut downs, Malhotra said in a phone interview.

The risks are coming following years of mergers and acquisitions. The most recent deal saw Apollo Global Management LLC swallowing rural hospital chain LifePoint Health Inc. for $5.6 billion last month. Apollo declined to comment on the deal; LifePoint has until Aug. 22 to solicit other offers. Consolidation among other health-care players, such as CVS’s planned takeover of insurer Aetna Inc., could also pressure hospitals as payers push patients toward outpatient services.

There are already a lot of hospitals with high negative margins, consultancy Veda Partners health care policy analyst Spencer Perlman said, and that’s going to become unsustainable. Rural hospitals with a smaller footprint may have less room to negotiate rates with managed care companies and are often hobbled by more older and poorer patients.

Also wearing away at margins are technological improvements that allow patients to get more surgeries and imaging done outside of the hospital. They are also likely to be forced to pay more to attract and retain doctors in key areas, Bloomberg Intelligence analyst Jason McGorman said.

They “are getting eaten alive from these market trends,” Perlman cautioned.

Future M&A options could be too late — buyers may hesitate as debt laden operators like Community Health Systems Inc. and Tenet Healthcare Corp. focus on selling underperforming sites to reduce leverage, Morgan Stanley’s Zachary Sopcak said.

The light at the end of the tunnel is some hospitals are rising to the occasion, Perlman said. Some acute care facilities are restructuring as outpatient emergency clinics with free-standing emergency departments. “Microhospitals,” or facilities with ten beds or less, are another trend that may hold promise.

 

NOT-FOR-PROFIT OPERATING MARGINS CONTINUE TO DECLINE

https://www.healthleadersmedia.com/finance/not-profit-operating-margins-continue-decline?utm_source=silverpop&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=ENL_180801_LDR_BREAKING_DeKalb_Emory%20(1)&spMailingID=14040768&spUserID=MTY3ODg4NTg1MzQ4S0&spJobID=1460932625&spReportId=MTQ2MDkzMjYyNQS2

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.


KEY TAKEAWAYS

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.

RATINGS ACTIONS FOR THE SECTOR THROUGH JUNE 22:

  • 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. 

CREDIT STRENGTHS OF NOT-FOR-PROFIT SYSTEMS:

  • 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. 

HOW STAND-ALONE HOSPITALS PERFORMED:

  • 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.

 

Moody’s: Proposed changes to 340B program will hurt the finances of nonprofit hospitals

http://www.fiercehealthcare.com/finance/moody-s-proposed-changes-to-340b-program-will-hurt-finances-nonprofit-hospitals?utm_medium=nl&utm_source=internal&mrkid=959610&mkt_tok=eyJpIjoiTURSbU5qazJZbU5sWlRKayIsInQiOiJJTnUxcUsyUm42Y3FjKzBZZXkzQytVR09NYzB0TzNZXC9rXC9YNnBFNXowa0duZGM1SU4yRGJYM2EraXk2TitOa3lwODlWVFNEXC9rc001WUJvcXNjc1U5ZDlYb3FWclNEUjBwbnNlNHc4RVwvc3dGWDVQclJtMDYyZXU4ZmJBNU1lcVkifQ%3D%3D

drugs

Inpatient drug costs will continue to rise for nonprofit and public U.S. hospitals, but the pace of drug price increases will likely slow down amid growing scrutiny of drug manufacturers’ pricing practices.

But even with the slowing rate of price increases, the rising drug costs and potential changes to Medicare 340B payments for outpatient drugs would further reduce hospital margins, according to a new report from Moody’s Investors Service.

Pharmaceutical costs have outpaced hospital revenue growth in recent years, contributing to weaker operating margins, Moody’s finds. “Price increases in recent years were extraordinarily high for certain branded hospital inpatient drugs, but drug manufacturers are pulling back on these increases,” said Diana Lee, a Moody’s vice president. “On the generic drug side, we expect that some of the pressure will ease as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approves more generic drugs for the first time.”

However, the government’s proposed reduction of Medicare Part B outpatient drug reimbursement to 340B hospitals by roughly 30% would hurt hospital margins.

“Hospitals and health systems of varying size and across the rating spectrum have noted anecdotally that they have benefited from cost savings from this discount drug program,” Lee says. “In some instances, the savings and income gained from this program can be meaningful relative to total operating cash flow. While about half of hospitals in the nation are 340B providers, those that have limited financial flexibility would be most exposed to possible changes to the 340B program.”

Hospitals and industry trade groups have urged the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to withdraw its proposal to cut the drug payments to hospitals in the federal drug discount program. Hospitals use the savings to waive copays and provide drugs and other services for free or reduced costs to low-income patients.

Last week a bipartisan group of more than 220 members of the House of Representatives also told CMS in a letter (PDF) they oppose the proposal.

“This program is a lifeline for the hospitals that serve our most vulnerable patients. These arbitrary cuts will do nothing to improve patient care, or address rising costs in the Medicare program. Instead they simply jeopardize access to the treatments and services that 340B hospitals provide,” said Rep. Mike Thompson (D-Calif.) in an announcement. “There is robust bipartisan agreement that CMS should go back to the drawing board to prevent harm to patients across the country.”

Rep. David P. McKinley (R-W.Va.) said CMS’ proposal was “misguided.” “Our letter shows strong bipartisan opposition to this proposed rule, and hopefully will convince CMS to change course. We must address the high costs of drugs, but this is not the way to do it,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Health Resources and Services Administration has once again delayed (PDF) the effective date of a different 340B final rule that would set drug price ceilings and penalties for drug manufacturers that knowingly overcharge hospitals for drugs purchased under the program. The Department of Health and Human Services said it has delayed the effective date to July 1, 2018, to give more time to make changes to facilitate compliance. “After reviewing the comments received from stakeholders regarding objections on the timing of the effective date and challenges associated with the complying with the final rule, HHS has determined that delaying the effective date to July 1, 2018, is necessary to consider some of the issues raised.”