Hospitals’ Soft Underbelly: The Capital Conundrum

Tax-exempt hospital systems without fortress balance sheets and top quartile operating performance will be capital constrained in the future healthcare economy, even if tax-exempt debt continues be cheap and accessible. Stating the obvious: operating a hospital is a capital intensive activity. Historically, hospitals have required about $1 of invested capital to generate $1 of hospital revenue. As hospital systems contemplate changing their facility-based fee-for-service models into health enterprise models responsible for managing populations of patients and being at risk, capital will need to be deployed into new areas….

For less than top tier rated hospital systems, these capital demands create a capital conundrum: building both balance sheet strength in the form of increased days cash on hand and reduced leverage, while also spending capital that is not financeable with tax-exempt debt and very difficult without extraordinary operating margins.

Carsten Beith, Cain Brothers Industry Insights; March 30, 2015

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