Middle Tennessee's hospital companies have some notable reform-driven tailwinds helping their bottom lines these days. Late last week, the Obama administration added another one when it said Pennsylvania will become the 27th state to expand Medicaid coverage to about 500,000 residents. That stands to benefit, among others, locally based Community Health Systems and LifePoint Hospitals. The former has been steadily building a Pennsylvania presence in recent years and now gets 12 percent of its revenues there. The latter is buying its way into Western Pennsylvania through its Duke LifePoint partnership.
SEE ALSO: Word from Gov. Bill Haslam last week that his administration plans to submit a Medicaid expansion plan this fall. For the record, Tennessee generates 7 percent of CHS' revenues and almost 11 percent of LifePoint's.
Vanderbilt University Chancellor Nick Zeppos told his assembled faculty senate last week that the school's medical center is still being hit "very hard" by the effects of health care reforms and the Haslam administration's refusal to expand Medicaid coverage in Tennessee. As a whole, he said, the U.S. health care sector won't be able to lean as much on institutions like Vanderbilt to absorb changes and costs.
“But a health system — and here I include local, state and national governments as well as the insurance industry — that continues to ask its nation’s universities and academic medical centers to make medical discoveries and produce the best physicians and scientists, at the same time that we increasingly shoulder the taxing responsibilities of a public hospital, is headed for trouble,” Zeppos said.
Ben Levisohn at Barron's has taken stock of hospital investor and analyst sentiment following the second-quarter earnings reports of most of the industry players. His takeaway: Stocks of HCA Holdings, Community Health Systems, LifePoint Hospitals and their peers have "more room to run" thanks to the benefits of the Affordable Care Act and a still-improving economy.
"It is the first time since the credit crisis that the group has had multiple drivers still in front of it," says UBS analyst A.J. Rice.
Veteran Wells Fargo analyst Gary Lieberman says the guidance raise by HCA Holdings Wednesday looks to be on the conservative side given that the benefits of health care reform aren't going to end anytime soon. He has reiterated his 'outperform' rating on shares of HCA, which jumped 10 percent (Ticker: HCA) to a record high. On the flip side, Paula Torch at Avondale tells Investor's Business Daily that HCA is proving (again) to be best in class.