Are Hospitals Prepared for a Recession?

News coverage of a possible economic recession flared a few weeks back with a yield curve inversion, a bond market phenomenon that is historically associated with a financial downturn. The curve came with a 3% drop in the Dow and S&P. Healthcare-related stocks took an even larger fall.  The Federal Reserve’s interest rate cut failed to immediately bolster the market.

While economists can’t precisely pinpoint the start of the next recession, this market volatility should serve as a wake-up call to vulnerable healthcare organizations. As we saw during the Great Recession (Dec. 2007- June 2009), an economic downturn can be particularly harmful to standalone and government hospitals and health systems currently eking out the slimmest of margins. Hospitals should be preparing now to absorb the financial impact of a recession.

The hospital business is highly subject to consumer utilization patterns. Out-of-pocket healthcare costs continue to be burdensome for many Americans with the proliferation of high-deductible health plans. Half of adults surveyed by the Kaiser Family Foundation in March 2019 said they have put off seeking medical care in the past year due to costs. This comes despite the U.S. currently experiencing one

The Intersection of Mission and Margin

As healthcare has transformed from a nascent local patchwork of services to one of our country’s leading industries, hospitals hold steadfast to their missions that have roots going back a century or more.

The precursors of many public and non-profit hospitals were almshouses or sanitariums created by municipalities or religious orders. These institutions treated the infirm and indigent and were funded largely by benevolent organizations, local public coffers, and personal donations. Patients paid whatever and however they could for care. In detailing their institution’s history, hospitals fondly evoke early 20th-century fundraisers held by school children, women’s auxiliary groups, and the like to purchase medical supplies and equipment.

Today, hospital care in the U.S. is a trillion-dollar industry. Mega-mergers among health systems are announced with increasing frequency. New access points are springing up outside the walls of hospitals. Municipal taxpayer funding for publicly sponsored systems and for non-profit tax exemptions is tenuous. Naming rights are negotiated with endowments for select organizations able to attract big donors. All of this falls against a backdrop of unstable government- and employer-based health coverage policies, declining reimbursement, and burdensome out-of-pocket costs for consumers.

So much has changed, but the

June 3rd, 2019|Publications|

Government-Affiliated Hospital Business Combinations: The Governance Dynamic

Many governmental hospitals might benefit from ownership change; in certain instances it is acutely needed. They face the same pressures to improve quality and lower costs that challenge most hospitals and health systems. In addition, they are confronted with complicated governance structures and disclosure requirements along with restrictions on capital.

Leaders of governmental hospitals that wish to consider ownership change should focus heavily on governance issues. Most resistance-to-change and transaction difficulties have resulted from leadership of the governmental entity and the hospital failing to act in a unified manner. Juniper aims to help create cohesion among hospital and government leaders as early as possible in a partnership process.

The initial efforts should encourage both governmental and hospital leaders to reach early agreement regarding the need for the process and what would be an optimal outcome.
• Gain consensus among the two groups on several fundamental objectives for the health system.
• Proceed in a collaborative manner with consistent governmental and hospital representation.
• Work with legal and financial professionals to overcome legal and structural complexities.
• Follow

April 26th, 2019|Publications|

Santa Clara County Succeeds in Securing the Future of Endangered Local Hospitals

The County of Santa Clara (Calif.) assumed responsibility for the operation of O’Connor Hospital in San José, St. Louise Regional Hospital in Gilroy, and De Paul Health Center in Morgan Hill on March 1, 2019. This transaction advances the County Board of Supervisors’ strategic goal to grow the size and scope of the County’s public healthcare delivery system. Juniper Advisory advised Santa Clara County on this transaction.

The two hospitals and health center were acquired from Verity Health, a health system that filed for Chapter 11 protection in late August 2018, triggering the potential sale of all six of its hospitals and other related assets in California. The County purchased the three Verity Health facilities located in Santa Clara County for $235 million.

“We are excited to bring these community hospitals into our health system as we expand and enhance the high-quality care that so many Santa Clara County residents have come to rely on,” said County Executive Jeffrey V. Smith, M.D., J.D. “Our new partners share our mission, values, and passion to serve. We expect O’Connor and Saint Louise

Regulatory Implications for Change of Control in Hospital M&A

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has provided new guidance on non-profit hospital business combinations that will result in more hospital transactions being reportable under the Hart-Scott-Rodino Act (HSR). Any affiliation that may result in a change in a hospital’s beneficial ownership, not just a change in governance, will likely now need to be reviewed by the FTC.

As a result, boards of hospitals that are pursuing a partnership will need to take extra measures to ensure that their organizations:
• Demonstrate the rigor of their partnership selection and decision-making process.
• Document their objectives and the benefits of the partnership.
• Allow for additional time to close to accommodate HSR review.

Read more about the new guidance here in an article authored by Juniper and Waller Lansden Dortch & Davis.

February 20th, 2019|Publications|

Analysis: Hospitals Buoyed by Tenuous Investment Income

Investment income resulting from a strong stock market has propped up many standalone hospitals’ balance sheets over the past two years, according to a recent evaluation by Juniper Advisory. In analyzing a sample of independent hospitals’ financials, Juniper Advisory found that investment income accounted for nearly half of the hospitals’ net margin. Hospitals that depend heavily on investment revenue could struggle to keep their doors open in the next economic downturn.

“Like any business, hospitals should not consistently rely on investment income to support their day-to-day operations,” said David Gordon, Principal, Juniper Advisory. “We’ve been watching the ongoing economic growth, which is good for both hospitals and their patients, but the economy will not always be as strong as it has been the last few years. When that time comes, hospitals will have to demonstrate that they can provide care much more cost-efficiently.”

Juniper Advisory reviewed the most recent audits available for a sample of 90 independent hospitals in California, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Minnesota, Ohio, Texas and Wisconsin. The average annual revenue of the sampled hospitals was $437 million.

Key findings of Juniper Advisory’s analysis include:
• 61% of hospitals had operating

December 12th, 2018|News & Events, Publications|

Demonstrating Fairness in a Market Approach to Hospital M&A

As transactions between large systems become more common, and more strategically focused on patient concentration and needs rather than geographic boundaries, state regulators are taking a closer examination of hospital business combinations.

From California to Illinois to Florida, state attorney generals have applied increased scrutiny to recent hospital transactions, regardless of tax status or ownership type. With healthcare expenditures increasing, consumers assuming a larger burden of the cost of care, and competition between systems heating up, regulators will continue to have a watchful eye on healthcare M&A activity.

In considering a business combination, a hospital board must be sure to:

  • Set goals to guide process decision making.
  • Leverage a controlled competitive process to elicit the market’s most
    optimal outcomes.
  • Demonstrate that proposals were objectively assessed based on how the
    terms met process goals.
  • Be prepared to illustrate to stakeholders, including regulators, that the
    process was robust and the resulting terms were fair and beneficial to the
    hospital and its community.

View the full article here.

September 26th, 2018|Publications|

Our Take: Considering Quality in a Business Combination 

Of the umpteen elements hospital leaders evaluate when considering the viability of a potential partner, quality is generally at the top of the list.

A larger partner can bring the scale, resources and expertise many smaller hospitals and systems seek to improve care quality for their community. This can include enhanced clinical protocols and standards, facility and equipment investments, deployment or recruitment of highly-skilled medical staff, patient support programs and more. Integrated delivery systems are also better positioned to address population health and health inequities, offering new approaches to keeping communities well and synergies with readmissions reduction strategies.

A partnership can provide a host of opportunities to improve care quality and patient outcomes, but in the early stages of exploration there is limited ability to dive deep into tactics. Instead, hospital leaders look for succinct ways to ascertain a potential partner’s quality of care.

Countless measures can be equated to quality, from objective metrics like infection and readmission rates, to the more subjective, like noise levels at night.  And there is no shortage of options for comparison: CMS Hospital Compare, Leapfrog, Consumer Reports, US News & World Report, the Commonwealth Fund. Many states

Our Take: A Case Study of Rural Success

Rural providers have been somewhat insulated by the transformation in the health care market over the past decade. Caught between understanding and implementing population health strategies, they are still heavily reliant on fee-for-service reimbursement models versus value-based care.  Rural hospitals are fighting for their margins, with few resources available to pilot innovative care strategies or make capital upgrades. Recruiting physicians is expensive and difficult and rural populations are increasingly aging and less affluent.

Modern Healthcare’s recent in-depth feature on rural health care outlines the clinical and economic drivers acutely impacting rural hospitals today. While the series points to many challenges and risks, there are promising examples of success that show us there is hope for the future of access to care in rural areas.

One such example highlighted by Modern Healthcare was CHRISTUS Good Shepherd in Longview, Texas. Juniper Advisory was engaged by Good Shepherd Health System, an integrated health system with two hospitals, in 2016 to conduct a strategic partnership exploration process aimed at helping the system continue to deliver on its mission. At the outset of the process, the GSHS board put forth a set of objectives for

July 25th, 2018|Publications|

Valuing the Troubled Hospital

Financial difficulties are commonly the catalyst for hospitals to begin exploring partnership options. As Rex Burgdorfer, Juniper Advisory Vice President, outlines in his latest article “Valuing the Troubled Hospital”, court-led restructuring is an option often considered by those with liquidity constraints and significant financial liabilities.

For hospitals nearing the zone of insolvency, retiring funded debt, unwinding interest rate swaps, satisfying defined benefit pension plans and covering post-closing risks are significant considerations when negotiating terms. Debt-heavy capital structures combined with today’s difficult operating environment has narrowed the margin of error for sellers. This reality places an increased importance on a complete, accurate valuation of a hospital’s assets and liabilities to guide mutually beneficial terms of a business combination.

These considerations should also encourage Boards of struggling non-profit hospitals to begin their partnership exploration process sooner, from a stronger financial position, and not delay until it’s too late to find a partner.

Click here to read the full article.

June 22nd, 2018|Publications|