Indicate by check mark if the Registrant is a well-known seasoned issuer, as defined in Rule 405 of the Securities Act. Yes x No ¨
Indicate by check mark if the Registrant is not required to file reports pursuant to Section 13 or Section 15(d) of the Exchange Act. Yes ¨ No x
Indicate by check mark whether the Registrant (1) has filed all reports required to be filed by Section 13 or 15(d) of the Exchange Act during the preceding 12 months, and (2) has been subject to such filing requirements for the past 90 days. Yes x No ¨
Indicate by check mark whether the Registrant has submitted electronically every Interactive Data File required to be submitted pursuant to Rule 405 of Regulation S-T during the preceding 12 months. Yes x No ¨
Indicate by check mark if disclosure of delinquent filers pursuant to Item 405 of Regulation S-K is not contained herein, and will not be contained, to the best of the Registrant’s knowledge, in definitive proxy or information statements incorporated by reference in Part III of this Form 10-K or any amendment to this Form 10-K. x
Indicate by check mark whether the Registrant is a large accelerated filer, an accelerated filer, a non-accelerated filer, a smaller reporting company or an emerging growth company (each as defined in Exchange Act Rule 12b-2).
Large accelerated filer x
Accelerated filer ¨
Non-accelerated filer ¨
Smaller reporting company ¨
Emerging growth company ¨
If an emerging growth company, indicate by check mark if the Registrant has elected not to use the extended transition period for complying with any new or revised financial accounting standards provided pursuant to Section 13(a) of the Exchange Act. ☐
Indicate by check mark whether the Registrant is a shell company (as defined in Exchange Act Rule 12b-2). Yes ☐ No ☒
As of June 30, 2018, the aggregate market value of the shares of common stock held by non-affiliates of the Registrant (treating directors, executive officers who were SEC reporting persons, and holders of 10% or more of the common stock outstanding as of that date, for this purpose, as affiliates) was approximately $2.3 billion based on the closing price of the Registrant’s shares on the New York Stock Exchange on Friday, June 29, 2018. As of January 31, 2019, there were 102,667,337 shares of common stock outstanding.
DOCUMENTS INCORPORATED BY REFERENCE
Portions of the Registrant’s definitive proxy statement for the 2019 annual meeting of shareholders are incorporated by reference into Part III of this Form 10-K.
Tenet Healthcare Corporation (together with our subsidiaries, referred to herein as “Tenet,” “we” or “us”) is a national, diversified healthcare services company. We operate regionally focused, integrated healthcare delivery networks, primarily in large urban and suburban markets. Through our subsidiaries, partnerships and joint ventures, including USPI Holding Company, Inc. (“USPI”), at December 31, 2018, we operated 68 hospitals (three of which we have since divested), 23surgical hospitals and approximately 475 outpatient centers throughout the United States. In addition, our Conifer Holdings, Inc. (“Conifer”) subsidiary provides healthcare business process services in the areas of hospital and physician revenue cycle management and value-based care solutions to healthcare systems, as well as individual hospitals, physician practices, self-insured organizations, health plans and other entities. For financial reporting purposes, our business lines are classified into three separate reportable operating segments – Hospital Operations and other, Ambulatory Care and Conifer. Additional information about our business segments is provided below; statistical data for the segments can be found in Item 7, Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations, of Part II of this report.
The healthcare industry, in general, and the acute care hospital business, in particular, have been experiencing significant regulatory uncertainty based, in large part, on administrative, legislative and judicial efforts to significantly modify or repeal and potentially replace the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, as amended by the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010 (“Affordable Care Act” or “ACA”). It is difficult to predict the full impact of regulatory uncertainty on our future revenues and operations. In addition, we believe that several key trends are shaping the demand for healthcare services: (1) consumers, employers and insurers are actively seeking lower-cost solutions and better value as they focus more on healthcare spending; (2) patient volumes are shifting from inpatient to outpatient settings due to technological advancements and demand for care that is more convenient, affordable and accessible; (3) the industry is migrating to value-based payment models with government and private payers shifting risk to providers; and (4) consolidation continues across the entire healthcare sector. Our ability to execute on our strategies and respond to these trends is subject to a number of risks and uncertainties that may cause actual results to be materially different from expectations. For information about our strategies, see Item 7, Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations, of Part II of this report. For information about risks and uncertainties that could affect our results of operations, see the Forward-Looking Statements and Risk Factors sections in Part I of this report.
We are focused on improving operational effectiveness, increasing capital efficiency and margins, expanding patient access points, enhancing the customer care experience in every part of our operations, and growing our higher-acuity inpatient service lines, as well as aligning service line growth with community demand. We believe our inpatient admissions have been constrained in recent years by increased competition, utilization pressure by managed care organizations, new delivery models that are designed to lower the utilization of acute care hospital services, the effects of higher patient co-pays, co-insurance amounts and deductibles, changing consumer behavior, and adverse economic conditions and demographic trends in certain of our markets. However, we also believe that emphasis on higher-demand clinical service lines (including outpatient services), focus on expanding our ambulatory care business, cultivation of our culture of service, participation in Medicare Advantage health plans that are experiencing higher growth rates than traditional Medicare plans, and contracting strategies that create shared value with payers should help us grow our patient volumes over time.
We continue to exit service lines, businesses and markets that we believe are no longer a core part of our long-term growth strategy. To that end, in 2018 we divested eight hospitals in the United States, as well as all of our operations in the United Kingdom. In addition, in January 2019, we completed the previously announced sale of three hospitals in the Chicago area that we owned at December 31, 2018. We intend to continue to further refine our portfolio of hospitals and other healthcare facilities when we believe such refinements will help us improve profitability, allocate capital more effectively in areas where we have a stronger presence, deploy proceeds on higher-return investments across our business, enhance cash generation and lower our ratio of debt-to-Adjusted EBITDA.
We also remain focused on opportunities to expand our Ambulatory Care segment through organic growth, building new outpatient centers, corporate development activities and strategic partnerships. We opened eight new outpatient centers in the year ended December 31, 2018, and we acquired 10 outpatient businesses, including two surgical hospitals. We believe USPI’s surgery centers and surgical hospitals offer many advantages to patients and physicians, including greater affordability, predictability, flexibility and convenience. Moreover, due in part to advancements in medical technology, and due to the lower cost structure and greater efficiencies that are attainable at a specialized outpatient site, we believe the volume and complexity of surgical cases performed in an outpatient setting will continue to increase. We have also continued to grow our imaging and urgent care businesses through USPI to reflect our broader strategies to (1) offer more services to patients, (2) broaden the
capabilities we offer to healthcare systems and physicians, and (3) expand into faster-growing, less capital intensive, higher-margin businesses. Historically, our outpatient services have generated significantly higher margins for us than inpatient services.
In addition to providing revenue cycle management services to healthcare systems and physicians, Conifer provides support to both providers and self-insured employers seeking assistance with clinical integration, financial risk management and population health management. At December 31, 2018, Conifer served approximately 750 Tenet and non-Tenet hospital and other clients nationwide. As previously announced, we are exploring strategic alternatives for Conifer. There can be no assurance that this process will result in a consummated transaction.
We have also undertaken enterprise-wide cost reduction initiatives, comprised primarily of workforce reductions (including streamlining corporate overhead and centralized support functions), the renegotiation of contracts with suppliers and vendors, and the consolidation of office locations. In 2019, we are continuing to explore new opportunities to enhance efficiency, including further integration of enterprise-wide centralized support functions, outsourcing certain functions unrelated to direct patient care, and reducing clinical and vendor contract variation.
HOSPITAL OPERATIONS AND OTHER SEGMENT
Hospitals, Ancillary Outpatient Facilities and Related Businesses—At December 31, 2018, our subsidiaries operated 68 hospitals, including one children’s hospital, two specialty hospitals and one critical access hospital, serving primarily urban and suburban communities in 10 states. (Following the sale of our Chicago-area hospitals and related operations effective January 28, 2019, our subsidiaries operated 65 hospitals in nine states.) Our subsidiaries had sole ownership of 57 of the hospitals we operated at December 31, 2018, nine were owned or leased by entities that are, in turn, jointly owned by a Tenet subsidiary and a healthcare system partner, and two were owned by third parties and leased by our wholly owned subsidiaries. Our Hospital Operations and other segment also included 165 outpatient centers at December 31, 2018, the majority of which are freestanding urgent care centers, provider-based diagnostic imaging centers, off-campus emergency departments and provider-based ambulatory surgery centers. In addition, at December 31, 2018, our subsidiaries owned or leased and operated: a number of medical office buildings, all of which were located on, or nearby, our hospital campuses; over 740 physician practices; accountable care organizations and clinically integrated networks; and other ancillary healthcare businesses.
Factors that affect service mix, revenue mix, patient volumes and, thereby, the results of operations at our hospitals and related healthcare facilities include, but are not limited to: (1) changes in federal and state healthcare regulations; (2) the business environment, economic conditions and demographics of local communities in which we operate; (3) the number of uninsured and underinsured individuals in local communities treated at our hospitals; (4) seasonal cycles of illness; (5) climate and weather conditions; (6) physician recruitment, retention and attrition; (7) advances in technology and treatments that reduce length of stay; (8) local healthcare competitors; (9) managed care contract negotiations or terminations; (10) the number of patients with high-deductible health insurance plans; (11) hospital performance data on quality measures and patient satisfaction, as well as standard charges for our services; (12) any unfavorable publicity about us, or our joint venture partners, that impacts our relationships with physicians and patients; and (13) the timing of elective procedures.
Each of our general hospitals offers acute care services, operating and recovery rooms, radiology services, respiratory therapy services, clinical laboratories and pharmacies; in addition, most have intensive care, critical care and/or coronary care units, physical therapy, and orthopedic, oncology and outpatient services. Many of our hospitals provide tertiary care services, such as cardiothoracic surgery, neonatal intensive care and neurosurgery, and some also offer quaternary care in areas such as heart, liver, kidney and bone marrow transplants. Our children’s hospital provides tertiary and quaternary pediatric services, including organ and bone marrow transplants, as well as burn services. Moreover, a number of our hospitals offer advanced treatment options for patients, including limb-salvaging vascular procedures, acute level 1 trauma services, comprehensive intravascular stroke care, minimally invasive cardiac valve replacement, cutting edge imaging technology, and telemedicine access for selected medical specialties.
Each of our hospitals (other than our critical access hospital) is accredited by The Joint Commission. With such accreditation, our hospitals are deemed to meet the Medicare Conditions of Participation and are eligible to participate in government-sponsored provider programs, such as the Medicare and Medicaid programs. Although our critical access hospital has not sought to be accredited, it also participates in the Medicare and Medicaid programs by otherwise meeting the Medicare Conditions of Participation.
MetroWest Medical Center – Framingham Union Campus
MetroWest Medical Center – Leonard Morse Campus
Saint Vincent Hospital
Children’s Hospital of Michigan
Detroit Receiving Hospital
Harper University Hospital
Huron Valley-Sinai Hospital
Hutzel Women’s Hospital
Rehabilitation Institute of Michigan(3)
Coastal Carolina Hospital
East Cooper Medical Center
Hilton Head Hospital
Piedmont Medical Center
Saint Francis Hospital
Saint Francis Hospital – Bartlett
Baptist Medical Center
The Hospitals of Providence East Campus
The Hospitals of Providence Memorial Campus
The Hospitals of Providence Sierra Campus
The Hospitals of Providence Transmountain Campus
Mission Trail Baptist Hospital
Nacogdoches Medical Center
North Central Baptist Hospital
Northeast Baptist Hospital
Resolute Health Hospital
St. Luke’s Baptist Hospital
Valley Baptist Medical Center
Valley Baptist Medical Center – Brownsville
Total Licensed Beds
Operated by a limited liability company formed as part of a joint venture with Baptist Health System, Inc. (“BHS”), a not-for-profit healthcare system in Alabama; a Tenet subsidiary owned a 60% interest in the entity at December 31, 2018, and BHS owned a 40% interest.
In order to receive certain tax benefits for these hospitals, which were operated as nonprofit hospitals prior to our joint venture with BHS, we have entered into arrangements with the City of Talladega, the City of Birmingham, the City of Alabaster and the City of Jasper such that a Medical Clinic Board owns each of these hospitals, and the hospitals are leased to our joint venture entity. These capital leases expire between November 2025 and September 2036, but contain two optional renewal terms of 10 years each.
Owned by a limited liability company formed as part of a joint venture with Dignity Health and Ascension Arizona, each of which is a not-for-profit healthcare system; a Tenet subsidiary owned a 60% interest in the entity at December 31, 2018, Dignity Health owned a 22.5% interest and Ascension Arizona owned a 17.5% interest.
Designated by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (“CMS”) as a critical access hospital.
Lease expires in May 2027.
Lease expires in July 2045.
Owned by a limited liability company formed as part of a joint venture with John Muir Health (“JMH”), a not-for-profit healthcare system in the San Francisco Bay area; a Tenet subsidiary owned a 51% interest in the entity at December 31, 2018, and JMH owned a 49% interest.
We sold our Chicago-area hospitals and related operations effective January 28, 2019.
Information regarding the utilization of licensed beds and other operating statistics at December 31, 2018, 2017 and 2016 can be found in Item 7, Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations, of Part II of this report.
At December 31, 2018, our Hospital Operations and other segment also included 50 diagnostic imaging centers, 12 off-campus emergency departments, 11 ambulatory surgery centers and one urgent care center operated as departments of our hospitals and under the same license, as well as 91 separately licensed, freestanding outpatient centers – typically at locations complementary to our hospitals – consisting of six diagnostic imaging centers, eight emergency facilities (seven of which are licensed as microhospitals), two ambulatory surgery centers and 75 urgent care centers. Nearly all of our freestanding urgent care centers are managed by USPI and operated under our national MedPost brand. Over half of the outpatient centers in our Hospital Operations and other segment at December 31, 2018 were in California, Florida and Texas, the same states where we had the largest concentrations of licensed hospital beds. Strong concentrations of hospital beds and outpatient centers within market areas may help us contract more successfully with managed care payers, reduce management, marketing and other expenses, and more efficiently utilize resources. However, these concentrations increase the risk that, should any adverse economic, regulatory, environmental or other condition occur in these areas, our overall business, financial condition, results of operations or cash flows could be materially adversely affected.
Accountable Care Organizations and Clinically Integrated Networks—We own, control or operate five accountable care organizations (“ACOs”) and 10 clinically integrated networks (“CINs”) – in Alabama, Arizona, California, Florida, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, Tennessee and Texas – and participate in four additional ACOs and CINs with other healthcare providers for select markets in Arizona and Texas. An ACO is a group of providers and suppliers that work together to redesign delivery processes in an effort to achieve high-quality and efficient provision of services under contract with CMS. ACOs that achieve quality performance standards established by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (“HHS”) are eligible to share in a portion of the amounts saved by the Medicare program. A CIN coordinates the healthcare needs of the communities served by its network of providers with the purpose of improving the quality and efficiency of healthcare services through collaborative programs, including contracts with managed care payers that create a high degree of interdependence and cooperation among the network providers. Because they promote accountability and coordination of care, ACOs and CINs are intended to produce savings as a result of improved quality and operational efficiencies. Both ACOs and CINs operate using a range of payment and care coordination models.
Health Plans—We previously announced our intention to sell or otherwise dispose of our health plan businesses because they are not a core part of our long-term growth strategy. To that end, we sold, divested the membership of or discontinued four health plans in 2017 and, in 2018, we divested our Chicago-based preferred provider network and our Southern California Medicare Advantage plan. Health plans we have not sold outright are being wound-down; however, during this time, they continue to be subject to numerous federal and state statutes and regulations related to their business operations, and each such health plan continues to be licensed by one or more agencies in the states in which they conduct business. In addition, insurance regulations in the states in which we currently operate have required us to maintain cash reserves in connection with certain health plans throughout the wind-down process.
AMBULATORY CARE SEGMENT
Our Ambulatory Care segment is comprised of the operations of USPI and included nine facilities in the United Kingdom until their divestiture in August 2018. At December 31, 2018, USPI had interests in 255 ambulatory surgery centers, 36 urgent care centers operated under the CareSpot brand, 23 imaging centers and 23surgical hospitals in 27 states. Of these 337 facilities, 208 are jointly owned with healthcare systems. At December 31, 2018, we owned approximately 95% of USPI, and Baylor University Medical Center (“Baylor”) owned approximately 5%.
Operations of USPI—USPI acquires and develops its facilities primarily through the formation of joint ventures with physicians and healthcare systems. USPI’s subsidiaries hold ownership interests in the facilities directly or indirectly and operate the facilities on a day-to-day basis through management services contracts. We believe that this acquisition and development strategy and operating model will enable USPI to continue to grow because of various industry trends we have seen emerge in recent years, namely that: (1) consumers are increasingly selecting services and providers based on cost and convenience, as well as quality; (2) more procedures are shifting from inpatient to outpatient settings; and (3) healthcare providers are entering into joint ventures to maximize effectiveness, reduce costs and build clinically integrated networks.
USPI’s surgical facilities primarily specialize in non-emergency cases. We believe surgery centers and surgical hospitals offer many advantages to patients and physicians, including greater affordability, predictability and convenience. Medical emergencies at acute care hospitals often demand the unplanned use of operating rooms and result in the postponement or delay of scheduled surgeries, disrupting physicians’ practices and inconveniencing patients. Outpatient facilities generally
provide physicians with greater scheduling flexibility, more consistent nurse staffing and faster turnaround time between cases. In addition, many physicians choose to perform surgery in outpatient facilities because their patients prefer the comfort of a less institutional atmosphere and the convenience of simplified admissions and discharge procedures.
New surgical techniques and technology, as well as advances in anesthesia, have significantly expanded the types of surgical procedures that are being performed in surgery centers and have helped drive the growth in outpatient surgery. Improved anesthesia has shortened recovery time by minimizing post-operative side effects, such as nausea and drowsiness, thereby avoiding the need for overnight hospitalization in many cases. Furthermore, some states permit surgery centers to keep a patient for up to 23 hours, which allows for more complex surgeries, previously performed only in an inpatient setting, to be performed in a surgery center.
In addition to these technological and other clinical advancements, a changing payer environment has contributed to the growth of outpatient surgery relative to all surgery performed. Government programs, private insurance companies, managed care organizations and self-insured employers have implemented cost-containment measures to limit increases in healthcare expenditures, including procedure reimbursement. Furthermore, as self-funded employers are looking to curb annual increases in their employee health benefits costs, they continue to shift additional financial responsibility to patients through higher co-pays, deductibles and premium contributions. These cost-containment measures have contributed to the shift in the delivery of healthcare services away from traditional inpatient hospitals to more cost-effective alternate sites, including surgical facilities. We believe that surgeries performed at surgical facilities are generally less expensive than hospital-based outpatient surgeries because of lower facility development costs, more efficient staffing and space utilization, and a specialized operating environment focused on quality of care and cost containment.
We operate USPI’s facilities, structure our joint ventures, and adopt staffing, scheduling, and clinical systems and protocols with the goal of increasing physician productivity. We believe that this focus on physician satisfaction, combined with providing high-quality healthcare in a friendly and convenient environment for patients, will continue to increase the number of procedures performed at our facilities each year. Our joint ventures also enable healthcare systems to offer patients, physicians and payers the cost advantages, convenience and other benefits of ambulatory care in a freestanding facility and, in certain markets, establish networks needed to manage the full continuum of care for a defined population. Further, these relationships allow the healthcare systems to focus their attention and resources on their core business without the challenge of acquiring, developing and operating these facilities.
Nearly all of the services comprising the operations of our Conifer segment are provided by Conifer Health Solutions, LLC or one of its direct or indirect wholly owned subsidiaries. At December 31, 2018, we owned 76.2% of Conifer Health Solutions, LLC, and Catholic Health Initiatives (“CHI”) had a 23.8% ownership position. We have been exploring strategic alternatives for Conifer, including a potential sale or merger, a tax-efficient spin-off or a combination of alternative transactions. There can be no assurance that this process will result in a consummated transaction, and we may ultimately decide to retain all or part of Conifer’s business.
Services—Conifer provides healthcare business process services in the areas of hospital and physician revenue cycle management and value-based care solutions to healthcare systems, as well as individual hospitals, physician practices, self-insured organizations, health plans and other entities.
Conifer’s revenue cycle management solutions consist of: (1) patient services, including: centralized insurance and benefit verification; financial clearance, pre-certification, registration and check-in services; and financial counseling services, including reviews of eligibility for government healthcare or financial assistance programs, for both insured and uninsured patients, as well as qualified health plan coverage under the ACA; (2) clinical revenue integrity solutions, including: clinical admission reviews; coding; clinical documentation improvement; coding compliance audits; charge description master management; and health information services; and (3) accounts receivable management solutions, including: third-party billing and collections; denials management; and patient collections. All of these solutions include ongoing measurement and monitoring of key revenue cycle metrics, as well as productivity and quality improvement programs. These revenue cycle management solutions assist hospitals, physician practices and other healthcare organizations in improving cash flow, revenue, and physician and patient satisfaction.
In addition, Conifer offers customized communications and engagement solutions to optimize the relationship between providers and patients. Conifer’s trained customer service representatives provide direct, 24-hour, multilingual support for (1) physician referral requests, calls regarding maternity services and other patient inquiries, (2) community education and
outreach, and (3) scheduling and appointment reminders. Additionally, Conifer coordinates and implements marketing outreach programs to keep patients informed of screenings, seminars and other events and services.
Conifer also offers value-based care solutions, including clinical integration, financial risk management and population health management, all of which assist hospitals, physicians, ACOs, health plans, self-insured employers and government agencies in improving the cost and quality of healthcare delivery, as well as patient outcomes. Conifer helps clients build clinically integrated networks that provide predictive analytics and quality measures across the care continuum. In addition, Conifer helps clients align and manage financial incentives among healthcare stakeholders through risk modeling and administration of various payment models. Furthermore, Conifer offers clients tools and analytics to improve quality of care and provide care management services for patients with chronic diseases by identifying high-risk patients, coordinating with patients and clinicians in managing care, and monitoring clinical outcomes.
Clients—At December 31, 2018, Conifer provided one or more of the business process services described above to approximately 750 clients nationwide. Tenet and CHI facilities represented over 300 of these clients, and the remainder were unaffiliated healthcare systems, hospitals, physician practices, self-insured organizations, health plans and other entities. The agreements documenting the terms and conditions of various services Conifer provides to Tenet hospitals, as well as certain administrative services our Hospital Operations and other segment provides to Conifer, were initially scheduled to expire in December 2018. As we continue to pursue strategic alternatives for Conifer, these agreements were renewed for an additional year with substantially similar pricing terms; however, the pricing or other material terms of such agreements may be modified if any such strategic alternative is consummated. Conifer’s agreement with CHI to provide patient access, revenue integrity and patient financial services to CHI’s facilities expires in 2032. For the year ended December 31, 2018, approximately 38% of Conifer’s net operating revenues were attributable to its relationship with Tenet and approximately 36% were attributable to its relationship with CHI. Additional information about our Conifer operating segment can be found in Item 7, Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations, of Part II of this report.
As we explore a sale or other strategic alternatives for Conifer, we are continuing to market Conifer’s revenue cycle management, patient communications and engagement services, and value-based care solutions businesses. The uncertainty regarding our plans for Conifer may have an adverse impact on our ability to secure new clients for Conifer. However, we believe that our success in growing Conifer and increasing its profitability depends in part on our success in executing the following strategies: (1) attracting hospitals and other healthcare providers that currently handle their revenue cycle management processes internally as new clients; (2) generating new client relationships through opportunities from USPI and Tenet’s acute care hospital acquisition and divestiture activities; (3) expanding revenue cycle management and value-based care service offerings through organic development and small acquisitions; (4) leveraging data from tens of millions of patient interactions for continued enhancement of the value-based care environment to drive competitive differentiation; and (5) developing services for our Ambulatory Care segment, leveraging USPI’s capabilities. There can be no assurance that Conifer will be successful in generating new client relationships, particularly with respect to hospitals we or Conifer’s other clients sell, as the respective buyers of such hospitals may not continue to use Conifer’s services or, if they do, they may not do so under the same contractual terms.
The locations of our hospitals and the number of licensed beds at each hospital at December 31, 2018 are set forth in the table beginning on page 3. We lease the majority of our outpatient facilities in both our Hospital Operations and other segment and our Ambulatory Care segment. These leases typically have initial terms ranging from five to 20 years, and most of the leases contain options to extend the lease periods. Our subsidiaries also operate a number of medical office buildings, all of which are located on, or nearby, our hospital campuses. We own many of these medical office buildings; the remainder are owned by third parties and leased by our subsidiaries.
Our corporate headquarters are located in Dallas, Texas. In addition, we maintain administrative offices in markets where we operate hospitals and other businesses, including USPI and Conifer. We typically lease our office space under operating lease agreements. We believe that all of our properties are suitable for their respective uses and are, in general, adequate for our present needs.
We rely on a combination of trademark, copyright and trade secret laws, as well as contractual terms and conditions, to protect our rights in our intellectual property assets. However, third parties may develop intellectual property that is similar or superior to ours. We also license third-party software, other technology and certain trademarks through agreements that impose certain restrictions on our ability to use the licensed items. We control access to and use of our software and other technology
through a combination of internal and external controls. Although we do not believe the intellectual property we utilize infringes any intellectual property right held by a third party, we could be prevented from utilizing such property and could be subject to significant damage awards if our use is found to do so.
PHYSICIANS AND EMPLOYEES
Physicians—Our operations depend in significant part on the number, quality, specialties, and admitting and scheduling practices of the licensed physicians who have been admitted to the medical staffs of our hospitals and other facilities, as well as physicians who affiliate with us and use our facilities as an extension of their practices. Under state laws and other licensing standards, medical staffs are generally self-governing organizations subject to ultimate oversight by the facility’s local governing board. Members of the medical staffs of our facilities also often serve on the medical staffs of facilities we do not operate, and they are free to terminate their association with our facilities or admit their patients to competing facilities at any time. At December 31, 2018, we owned over 740 physician practices, and we employed (where permitted by state law) or otherwise affiliated with nearly 1,600 physicians; however, we have no contractual relationship with the overwhelming majority of the physicians who practice at our hospitals and outpatient centers. It is essential to our ongoing business that we attract an appropriate number of quality physicians in the specialties required to support our services and that we maintain good relations with those physicians. In some of our markets, physician recruitment and retention are affected by a shortage of physicians in certain specialties and the difficulties that physicians can experience in obtaining affordable malpractice insurance or finding insurers willing to provide such insurance. Moreover, our ability to recruit and employ physicians is closely regulated.
Employees in Our Healthcare Facilities—In addition to physicians, the operations of our facilities are dependent on the efforts, abilities and experience of our facilities management and medical support employees, including nurses, therapists, pharmacists and lab technicians. We compete with other healthcare providers in recruiting and retaining qualified personnel responsible for the day-to-day operations of our facilities. In some markets, there is a limited availability of experienced medical support personnel, which drives up the local wages and benefits required to recruit and retain employees. In particular, like others in the healthcare industry, we continue to experience a shortage of critical-care nurses in certain disciplines and geographic areas. Moreover, we hire many newly licensed nurses in addition to experienced nurses, which requires us to invest in their training.
California is the only state in which we operate that requires minimum nurse-to-patient staffing ratios to be maintained at all times in acute care hospitals. If other states in which we operate adopt mandatory nurse-staffing ratios, it could have a significant effect on our labor costs and have an adverse impact on our net operating revenues if we are required to limit patient volumes in order to meet the required ratios.
Union Activity and Labor Relations—At December 31, 2018, approximately 26% of the employees in our Hospital Operations and other segment were represented by labor unions. Less than 1% of the employees in our Ambulatory Care and Conifer segments belong to a union. Unionized employees – primarily registered nurses and service, technical and maintenance workers – are located at 35 of our hospitals, the majority of which are in California, Florida and Michigan. When negotiating collective bargaining agreements with unions, whether such agreements are renewals or first contracts, there is a possibility that strikes could occur, and our continued operation during any strikes could increase our labor costs and have an adverse effect on our patient volumes and net operating revenues. Organizing activities by labor unions could increase our level of union representation in future periods, which could result in increases in salaries, wages and benefits expense.
Headcount—At December 31, 2018, we employed approximately 115,500 people (of which approximately 22% were part-time employees) in our three business segments, as follows:
Hospital Operations and other
Generally, other hospitals and outpatient centers in the local communities we serve provide services similar to those we offer, and, in some cases, competing facilities are more established or newer than ours. Furthermore, our competitors (1) may offer a broader array of services or more desirable facilities to patients and physicians than ours, (2) may have larger or
more specialized medical staffs to admit and refer patients, (3) may have a better reputation in the community, (4) may be more centrally located with better parking or closer proximity to public transportation or (5) may be able to negotiate more favorable reimbursement rates that they may use to strengthen their competitive position. In the future, we expect to encounter increased competition from system-affiliated hospitals and healthcare companies, as well as health insurers and private equity companies seeking to acquire providers, in specific geographic markets.
We also face competition from specialty hospitals (some of which are physician-owned) and unaffiliated freestanding outpatient centers for market share in high-margin services and for quality physicians and personnel. In recent years, the number of freestanding specialty hospitals, surgery centers, emergency departments, urgent care centers and diagnostic imaging centers in the geographic areas in which we operate has increased significantly. Furthermore, some of the hospitals that compete with our hospitals are owned by government agencies or not-for-profit organizations. These tax-exempt competitors may have certain financial advantages not available to our facilities, such as endowments, charitable contributions, tax-exempt financing, and exemptions from sales, property and income taxes. In addition, in certain markets in which we operate, large teaching hospitals provide highly specialized facilities, equipment and services that may not be available at our hospitals.
Another major factor in the competitive position of a hospital or outpatient facility is the ability to negotiate contracts with managed care plans. Health maintenance organizations (“HMOs”), preferred provider organizations (“PPOs”), third-party administrators, and other third-party payers use managed care contracts to encourage patients to use certain hospitals in exchange for discounts from the hospitals’ established charges. These negotiated discounts generally limit our ability to increase charges in response to increasing costs. Nevertheless, our future success depends, in part, on our ability to retain and renew our managed care contracts and enter into new managed care contracts on competitive terms. Other healthcare providers may affect our ability to enter into acceptable managed care contractual arrangements or negotiate increases in our reimbursement. For example, some of our competitors may negotiate exclusivity provisions with managed care plans or otherwise restrict the ability of managed care companies to contract with us. Furthermore, the ongoing trend toward consolidation among non-government payers tends to increase their bargaining power over fee structures.
In addition, the competitive positions of hospitals and outpatient facilities depend in significant part on the number, quality, specialties, and admitting and scheduling practices of the licensed physicians who have been admitted to the medical staffs of those facilities, as well as physicians who affiliate with and use outpatient centers as an extension of their practices. Members of the medical staffs of our facilities also often serve on the medical staffs of facilities we do not operate, and they are free to terminate their association with our facilities or admit their patients to competing facilities at any time. State laws that require findings of need for construction and expansion of healthcare facilities or services (as described in “Healthcare Regulation and Licensing – Certificate of Need Requirements” below) may also impact competition.
Our strategies are designed to help our hospitals and outpatient facilities remain competitive. We believe emphasis on higher-demand clinical service lines (including outpatient lines) and improved quality metrics will improve our volumes. Furthermore, we have expanded our ambulatory care business, and we have significantly increased our focus on operating our outpatient centers with improved accessibility and more convenient service for patients, increased predictability and efficiency for physicians, and (for most services) lower costs for payers than would be incurred with a hospital visit. We have also sought to include all of our hospitals and other healthcare businesses in the related geographic area or nationally when negotiating new managed care contracts, which may result in additional volumes at facilities that were not previously a part of such managed care networks.
We have made significant investments in equipment, technology, education and operational strategies designed to improve clinical quality at all of our facilities. We believe physicians refer patients to a hospital on the basis of the quality and scope of services it renders to patients and physicians, the quality of other physicians on the medical staff, the location of the hospital, and the quality of the hospital’s facilities, equipment and employees. In addition, we continually collaborate with physicians to implement the most current evidence-based medicine techniques to improve the way we provide care, while using labor management tools and supply chain initiatives to reduce variable costs. We believe the use of these practices will promote the most effective and efficient utilization of resources and result in more appropriate lengths of stay, as well as reductions in readmissions for hospitalized patients. In general, we believe that quality of care improvements may have the effects of: (1) reducing costs; (2) increasing payments from Medicare and certain managed care payers for our services as governmental and private payers move to pay-for-performance models, and the commercial market moves to more narrow networks and other methods designed to encourage covered individuals to use certain facilities over others; and (3) increasing physician and patient satisfaction, which may improve our volumes.
Moreover, in most of our markets, we have formed clinically integrated networks, which are collaborations with independent physicians and hospitals to develop ongoing clinical initiatives designed to control costs and improve the quality of care delivered to patients. Arrangements like these provide a foundation for negotiating with plans under an ACO structure
or other risk-sharing model. However, we do face competition from other healthcare systems that are implementing similar physician alignment strategies, such as employing physicians, acquiring physician practice groups, and participating in ACOs or other clinical integration models.
REVENUE CYCLE MANAGEMENT SOLUTIONS
Our Conifer subsidiary faces competition from existing participants and new entrants to the revenue cycle management market, some of which may have significantly greater capital resources than Conifer. In addition, the internal revenue cycle management staff of hospitals and other healthcare providers, who have historically performed many of the functions addressed by our services, in effect compete with us. Moreover, providers who have previously made investments in internally developed solutions may choose to continue to rely on their own resources. We also currently compete with several categories of external participants in the revenue cycle market, including:
software vendors and other technology-supported revenue cycle management business process outsourcing companies;
traditional consultants, either specialized healthcare consulting firms or healthcare divisions of large accounting firms; and
large, non-healthcare focused business process and information technology outsourcing firms.
We believe that competition for the revenue cycle management and other services Conifer provides is based primarily on: (1) knowledge and understanding of the complex public and private healthcare payment and reimbursement systems; (2) a track record of delivering revenue improvements and efficiency gains for hospitals and other healthcare providers; (3) the ability to deliver solutions that are fully integrated along each step of the revenue cycle; (4) cost-effectiveness, including the breakdown between up-front costs and pay-for-performance incentive compensation; (5) reliability, simplicity and flexibility of the technology platform; (6) understanding of the healthcare industry’s regulatory environment, as well as laws and regulations relating to consumer protection; and (7) financial resources to maintain current technology and other infrastructure.
To be successful, Conifer must respond more quickly and effectively than its competitors to new or changing opportunities, technologies, standards, regulations and client requirements. Existing or new competitors may introduce technologies or services that render Conifer’s technologies or services obsolete or less marketable. Even if Conifer’s technologies and services are more effective than the offerings of its competitors, current or potential clients might prefer competitive technologies or services to Conifer’s technologies and services. Furthermore, increased competition has resulted and may continue to result in pricing pressures, which could negatively impact Conifer’s margins, growth rate or market share. In addition, the uncertainty regarding our plans for Conifer may have an adverse impact on Conifer’s ability to secure new clients.
HEALTHCARE REGULATION AND LICENSING
The Affordable Care Act extended health coverage to millions of uninsured legal U.S. residents through a combination of private sector health insurance reforms and public program expansion. To fund the expansion of insurance coverage, the ACA includes measures designed to promote quality and cost efficiency in healthcare delivery and to generate budgetary savings in the Medicare and Medicaid programs. In addition, the ACA contains provisions intended to strengthen fraud and abuse enforcement.
The initial expansion of health insurance coverage under the ACA resulted in an increase in the number of patients using our facilities with either private or public program coverage and a decrease in uninsured and charity care admissions. Although a substantial portion of both our patient volumes and, as result, our revenues has historically been derived from government healthcare programs, reductions to our reimbursement under the Medicare and Medicaid programs as a result of the ACA have been partially offset by increased revenues from providing care to previously uninsured individuals.
The President issued an executive order in January 2017 declaring that it is the official policy of his administration to seek the prompt repeal of the ACA and directing the heads of all executive departments and agencies to minimize the economic and regulatory burdens of the ACA to the maximum extent permitted by law while the ACA remains in effect. The White House also sent a memorandum to federal agencies directing them to freeze any new or pending regulations. In October 2017, the administration announced that reimbursements to insurance companies for ACA cost-sharing
reduction (“CSR”) plans offered through the health insurance marketplace would be discontinued. CSR payments compensate insurers for subsidizing out-of-pocket costs for low-income enrollees. Without the CSR payments, many insurers increased premiums for plans offered on ACA exchanges and a few withdrew entirely from offering plans on some of the exchanges. In addition, in December 2017, Congress passed and the President signed a tax reform bill into law that, among other things, eliminates the ACA’s individual mandate penalty for not buying health insurance starting in 2019. The Congressional Budget Office and the staff of the Joint Committee on Taxation estimated that eliminating the mandate penalty starting in 2019 – and making no other changes to the then-current law – would cause the number of people with health insurance to decrease by 4 million in 2019 and 13 million in 2027. Members of Congress have also proposed measures that would expand government-sponsored coverage, including single-payer proposals. We cannot predict if or when further modification of the ACA will occur or what action, if any, Congress might take with respect to eventually repealing and possibly replacing the law.
There have also been successful judicial challenges to the ACA, including a December 2018 ruling by the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas that the ACA’s individual mandate is unconstitutional. Because the judge’s order was stayed pending appeal, the decision’s near-term impact on health insurance coverage under the ACA may be limited; however, uncertainty over the future of the ACA has intensified. The ultimate outcome of this decision and other judicial challenges is indeterminate. We are also unable to predict the impact of administrative, regulatory and legislative changes, and market reactions to those changes, on our future revenues and operations. However, if the ultimate impact is that significantly fewer individuals have private or public health coverage, we likely will experience decreased volumes, reduced revenues and an increase in uncompensated care, which would adversely affect our results of operations and cash flows. This negative effect will be exacerbated if the ACA’s reductions in Medicare reimbursement and reductions in Medicare disproportionate share hospital (“DSH”) payments that have already taken effect are not reversed if the law is repealed or if further reductions (including Medicaid DSH reductions scheduled to take effect in federal fiscal years 2020 through 2025) are made.
ANTI-KICKBACK AND SELF-REFERRAL REGULATIONS
Anti-Kickback Statute—Medicare and Medicaid anti-kickback and anti-fraud and abuse amendments codified under Section 1128B(b) of the Social Security Act (the “Anti-kickback Statute”) prohibit certain business practices and relationships that might affect the provision and cost of healthcare services payable under the Medicare and Medicaid programs and other government programs, including the payment or receipt of remuneration for the referral of patients whose care will be paid for by such programs. Specifically, the law prohibits any person or entity from offering, paying, soliciting or receiving anything of value, directly or indirectly, for the referral of patients covered by Medicare, Medicaid and other federal healthcare programs or the leasing, purchasing, ordering or arranging for or recommending the lease, purchase or order of any item, good, facility or service covered by these programs. In addition to addressing other matters, as discussed below, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (“HIPAA”) also amended Title XI (42 U.S.C. Section 1301 et seq.) to broaden the scope of fraud and abuse laws to include all health plans, whether or not payments under such health plans are made pursuant to a federal program. Moreover, the Affordable Care Act amended the Anti-kickback Statute to provide that intent to violate the Anti-kickback Statute is not required; rather, intent to violate the law generally is all that is required.
Sanctions for violating the Anti-kickback Statute include criminal and civil penalties, as well as fines and mandatory exclusion from government programs, such as Medicare and Medicaid. In addition, submission of a claim for services or items generated in violation of the Anti-kickback Statute constitutes a false or fraudulent claim and may be subject to additional penalties under the federal False Claims Act (“FCA”). Furthermore, it is a violation of the federal Civil Monetary Penalties Law to offer or transfer anything of value to Medicare or Medicaid beneficiaries that is likely to influence their decision to obtain covered goods or services from one provider or service over another. Many states have statutes similar to the federal Anti-kickback Statute, except that the state statutes usually apply to referrals for services reimbursed by all third-party payers, not just federal programs.
The federal government has also issued regulations that describe some of the conduct and business relationships that are permissible under the Anti-kickback Statute. These regulations are often referred to as the “Safe Harbor” regulations. Currently, there are safe harbors for various activities, including the following: investment interests; space rental; equipment rental; practitioner recruitment; personal services and management contracts; sales of practices; referral services; warranties; discounts; employees; group purchasing organizations; waivers of beneficiary coinsurance and deductible amounts; managed care arrangements; obstetrical malpractice insurance subsidies; investments in group practices; ambulatory surgery centers; referral agreements for specialty services; cost-sharing waivers for pharmacies and emergency ambulance services; and local transportation. The fact that certain conduct or a given business arrangement does not meet a Safe Harbor does not necessarily render the conduct or business arrangement illegal under the Anti-kickback Statute. Rather, such conduct and business arrangements may be subject to increased scrutiny by government enforcement authorities and should be reviewed on a case-by-case basis.
Stark Law—The Stark law generally restricts referrals by physicians of Medicare or Medicaid patients to entities with which the physician or an immediate family member has a financial relationship, unless one of several exceptions applies. The referral prohibition applies to a number of statutorily defined “designated health services,” such as clinical laboratory, physical therapy, radiology, and inpatient and outpatient hospital services; the prohibition does not apply to health services provided by an ambulatory surgery center if those services are included in the surgery center’s composite Medicare payment rate. However, if the ambulatory surgery center is separately billing Medicare for designated health services that are not covered under the ambulatory surgery center’s composite Medicare payment rate, or if either the ambulatory surgery center or an affiliated physician is performing (and billing Medicare) for procedures that involve designated health services that Medicare has not designated as an ambulatory surgery center service, the Stark law’s self-referral prohibition would apply and such services could implicate the Stark law. Exceptions to the Stark law’s referral prohibition cover a broad range of common financial relationships. These statutory and the subsequent regulatory exceptions are available to protect certain permitted employment relationships, relocation arrangements, leases, group practice arrangements, medical directorships, and other common relationships between physicians and providers of designated health services, such as hospitals. A violation of the Stark law may result in a denial of payment, required refunds to patients and the Medicare program, civil monetary penalties of up to $15,000 for each violation, civil monetary penalties of up to $100,000 for “sham” arrangements, civil monetary penalties of up to $10,000 for each day that an entity fails to report required information, and exclusion from participation in the Medicare and Medicaid programs and other federal programs. In addition, the submission of a claim for services or items generated in violation of the Stark law may constitute a false or fraudulent claim, and thus be subject to additional penalties under the FCA. Many states have adopted self-referral statutes similar to the Stark law, some of which extend beyond the related state Medicaid program to prohibit the payment or receipt of remuneration for the referral of patients and physician self-referrals regardless of the source of the payment for the care. Our participation in and development of joint ventures and other financial relationships with physicians could be adversely affected by the Stark law and similar state enactments.
The Affordable Care Act also made changes to the “whole hospital” exception in the Stark law, effectively preventing new physician-owned hospitals after March 23, 2010 and limiting the capacity and amount of physician ownership in then-existing physician-owned hospitals. As revised, the Stark law prohibits physicians from referring Medicare patients to a hospital in which they have an ownership or investment interest unless the hospital had physician ownership and a Medicare provider agreement as of March 23, 2010 (or, for those hospitals under development at the time of the ACA’s enactment, as of December 31, 2010). A physician-owned hospital that meets these requirements is still subject to restrictions that limit the hospital’s aggregate physician ownership percentage and, with certain narrow exceptions for hospitals with a high percentage of Medicaid patients, prohibit expansion of the number of operating rooms, procedure rooms or beds. Physician-owned hospitals are also currently subject to reporting requirements and extensive disclosure requirements on the hospital’s website and in any public advertisements.
Implications of Fraud and Abuse Laws—At December 31, 2018, the majority of the facilities that operate as surgical hospitals in our Ambulatory Care segment are owned by joint ventures that include some physician owners and are subject to the limitations and requirements in the Affordable Care Act on physician-owned hospitals. Furthermore, the majority of ambulatory surgery centers in our Ambulatory Care segment, which are owned by joint ventures with physicians or healthcare systems, are subject to the Anti-kickback Statute and, in certain circumstances, may be subject to the Stark law. In addition, we have contracts with physicians and non-physician referral services providing for a variety of financial arrangements, including employment contracts, leases and professional service agreements, such as medical director agreements. We have also provided financial incentives to recruit physicians to relocate to communities served by our hospitals, including income and collection guarantees and reimbursement of relocation costs, and will continue to provide recruitment packages in the future. Furthermore, new payment structures, such as ACOs and other arrangements involving combinations of hospitals, physicians and other providers who share payment savings, could potentially be seen as implicating anti-kickback and self-referral provisions.
Our operations could be adversely affected by the failure of our arrangements to comply with the Anti-kickback Statute, the Stark law, billing requirements, current state laws, or other legislation or regulations in these areas adopted in the future. We are unable to predict whether other legislation or regulations at the federal or state level in any of these areas will be adopted, what form such legislation or regulations may take or how they may impact our operations. For example, we cannot predict whether physicians may ultimately be restricted from holding ownership interests in hospitals or whether the exception relating to services provided by ambulatory surgery centers could be eliminated. We are continuing to enter into new financial arrangements with physicians and other providers in a manner we believe complies with applicable anti-kickback and anti-fraud and abuse laws. However, governmental officials responsible for enforcing these laws may nevertheless assert that we are in violation of these provisions. In addition, these statutes or regulations may be interpreted and enforced by the courts in a manner that is not consistent with our interpretation. An adverse determination could subject us to liabilities under the Social Security Act, including criminal penalties, civil monetary penalties and exclusion from participation in Medicare,
Medicaid or other federal healthcare programs, any of which could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition or results of operations. In addition, any determination by a federal or state agency or court that USPI or its subsidiaries has violated any of these laws could give certain of our healthcare system partners a right to terminate their relationships with us; and any similar determination with respect to Conifer or any of its subsidiaries could give Conifer’s clients the right to terminate their services agreements with us. Moreover, any violations by and resulting penalties or exclusions imposed upon USPI’s healthcare system partners or Conifer’s clients could adversely affect their financial condition and, in turn, have a material adverse effect on our business and results of operations.
Retention of Independent Compliance Monitor—In September 2016, the Company and certain of its subsidiaries, including Tenet HealthSystem Medical, Inc. (“THSMI”), Atlanta Medical Center, Inc. (“AMCI”) and North Fulton Medical Center, Inc. (“NFMCI”), executed agreements with the U.S. Department of Justice (“DOJ”) and others to resolve a civil qui tam action and criminal investigation. In accordance with the terms of the resolution agreements, THSMI entered into a Non-Prosecution Agreement (as amended, the “NPA”) with the Criminal Division, Fraud Section, of the DOJ and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia (together, the “Offices”). The NPA requires, among other things, (1) THSMI and the Company to fully cooperate with the Offices in any matters relating to the conduct described in the NPA and other conduct under investigation by the Offices at any time during the term of the NPA, and (2) the Company to retain an independent compliance monitor to assess, oversee and monitor its compliance with the obligations under the NPA. The powers, duties and responsibilities of the independent compliance monitor are broadly defined. On February 1, 2017, the Company retained two independent co-monitors (the “Monitor”), who are partners in a national law firm.
The Monitor’s primary responsibility is to assess, oversee and monitor the Company’s compliance with its obligations under the NPA to specifically address and reduce the risk of any recurrence of violations of the Anti-kickback Statute and Stark law by any entity the Company owns, in whole or in part. In doing so, the Monitor reviews and monitors the effectiveness of the Company’s compliance with the Anti-kickback Statute and the Stark law, as well as respective implementing regulations, advisories and advisory opinions promulgated thereunder, and makes such recommendations as the Monitor believes are necessary to comply with the NPA. With respect to all entities in which the Company or one of its affiliates owns a direct or indirect equity interest of 50% or less and does not manage or control the day-to-day operations, the Monitor’s access to such entities is co-extensive with the Company’s access or control and for the purpose of reviewing the conduct. During its term, the Monitor will review and provide recommendations for improving compliance with the Anti-kickback Statute and Stark law, as well as the design, implementation and enforcement of the Company’s compliance and ethics programs for the purpose of preventing future criminal and ethical violations by the Company and its subsidiaries, including, but not limited to, violations related to the conduct giving rise to the NPA and the Criminal Information filed in connection with the NPA. If we are alleged or found to have violated the terms of the NPA described above or federal healthcare laws, rules or regulations in the future, our business, financial condition, results of operations or cash flows could be materially adversely affected. For additional information regarding the duties and authorities of the Monitor, reference is made to our Current Report on Form 8-K filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) on October 3, 2016.
HEALTH INSURANCE PORTABILITY AND ACCOUNTABILITY ACT
Title II, Subtitle F of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act mandates the adoption of specific standards for electronic transactions and code sets that are used to transmit certain types of health information. HIPAA’s objective is to encourage efficiency and reduce the cost of operations within the healthcare industry. To protect the information transmitted using the mandated standards and the patient information used in the daily operations of a covered entity, HIPAA also sets forth federal rules protecting the privacy and security of protected health information (“PHI”). The privacy and security regulations address the use and disclosure of individually identifiable health information and the rights of patients to understand and control how their information is used and disclosed. The law provides both criminal and civil fines and penalties for covered entities that fail to comply with HIPAA.
To receive reimbursement from CMS for electronic claims, healthcare providers and health plans must use HIPAA’s electronic data transmission (transaction and code set) standards when transmitting certain healthcare information electronically. Our electronic data transmissions are compliant with current HHS standards for additional electronic transactions and with HHS’ operating rules to promote uniformity in the implementation of each standardized electronic transaction.
Under HIPAA, covered entities must establish administrative, physical and technical safeguards to protect the confidentiality, integrity and availability of electronic PHI maintained or transmitted by them or by others on their behalf. The covered entities we operate are in material compliance with the privacy, security and National Provider Identifier requirements of HIPAA. In addition, most of Conifer’s clients are covered entities, and Conifer is a business associate to many of those clients under HIPAA as a result of its contractual obligations to perform certain functions on behalf of and provide certain
services to those clients. As a business associate, Conifer’s use and disclosure of PHI is restricted by HIPAA and the business associate agreements Conifer is required to enter into with its covered entity clients.
The Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (“HITECH”) Act imposed certain of the HIPAA privacy and security requirements directly upon business associates of covered entities and significantly increased the monetary penalties for violations of HIPAA. Regulations also require business associates such as Conifer to notify covered entities, who in turn must notify affected individuals and government authorities, of data security breaches involving unsecured PHI. Since the passage of the HITECH Act, enforcement of HIPAA violations has increased. If Conifer knowingly breaches the HIPAA privacy and security requirements made applicable to business associates by the HITECH Act, it could expose Conifer to criminal liability (as well as contractual liability to the associated covered entity); a breach of safeguards and processes that is not due to reasonable cause or involves willful neglect could expose Conifer to significant civil penalties and the possibility of civil litigation under HIPAA and applicable state law.
We have developed a comprehensive set of policies and procedures in our efforts to comply with HIPAA, and similar state privacy laws, under the guidance of our ethics and compliance department. Our compliance officers and information security officers are responsible for implementing and monitoring compliance with our HIPAA privacy and security policies and procedures throughout our company. We have also created an internal web-based HIPAA training program, which is mandatory for all employees. Based on existing regulations and our experience with HIPAA to this point, we continue to believe that the ongoing costs of complying with HIPAA will not have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations or cash flows.
GOVERNMENT ENFORCEMENT EFFORTS AND QUI TAM LAWSUITS
Both federal and state government agencies continue heightened and coordinated civil and criminal enforcement efforts against the healthcare industry. The Office of Inspector General (“OIG”) was established as an independent and objective oversight unit of HHS to carry out the mission of preventing fraud and abuse and promoting economy, efficiency and effectiveness of HHS programs and operations. In furtherance of this mission, the OIG, among other things, conducts audits, evaluations and investigations relating to HHS programs and operations and, when appropriate, imposes civil monetary penalties, assessments and administrative sanctions. Although we have extensive policies and procedures in place to facilitate compliance with the laws, rules and regulations affecting the healthcare industry, these policies and procedures may not be effective.
Healthcare providers are also subject to qui tam or “whistleblower” lawsuits under the FCA, which allows private individuals to bring actions on behalf of the government, alleging that a hospital or healthcare provider has defrauded a government program, such as Medicare or Medicaid. If the government intervenes in the action and prevails, the defendant may be required to pay three times the damages sustained by the government, plus mandatory civil penalties for each false claim submitted to the government. As part of the resolution of a qui tam case, the qui tam plaintiff may share in a portion of any settlement or judgment. If the government does not intervene in the action, the qui tam plaintiff may continue to pursue the action independently. There are many potential bases for liability under the FCA. Liability often arises when an entity knowingly submits a false claim for reimbursement to the federal government. The FCA defines the term “knowingly” broadly. Though simple negligence will not give rise to liability under the FCA, submitting a claim with reckless disregard to its truth or falsity constitutes a “knowing” submission under the FCA and, therefore, will qualify for liability. The Fraud Enforcement and Recovery Act of 2009 expanded the scope of the FCA by, among other things, creating liability for knowingly and improperly avoiding repayment of an overpayment received from the government and broadening protections for whistleblowers. It is a violation of the FCA to knowingly fail to report and return an overpayment within 60 days of identifying the overpayment or by the date a corresponding cost report is due, whichever is later. Qui tam actions can also be filed under certain state false claims laws if the fraud involves Medicaid funds or funding from state and local agencies. We have paid significant amounts to resolve qui tam matters brought against us in the past, and we are unable to predict the impact of future qui tam actions on our business, financial condition, results of operations or cash flows.
HEALTHCARE FACILITY LICENSING REQUIREMENTS
The operation of healthcare facilities is subject to federal, state and local regulations relating to personnel, operating policies and procedures, fire prevention, rate-setting, the adequacy of medical care, and compliance with building codes and environmental protection laws. Various licenses and permits also are required in order to dispense narcotics, operate pharmacies, handle radioactive materials and operate certain equipment. Our facilities are subject to periodic inspection by governmental and other authorities to assure continued compliance with the various standards necessary for licensing and accreditation. We believe that all of our healthcare facilities hold all required governmental approvals, licenses and permits material to the operation of their business.
UTILIZATION REVIEW COMPLIANCE AND HOSPITAL GOVERNANCE
In addition to certain statutory coverage limits and exclusions, federal regulations, specifically the Medicare Conditions of Participation, generally require healthcare providers, including hospitals that furnish or order healthcare services that may be paid for under the Medicare program or state healthcare programs, to ensure that claims for reimbursement are for services or items that are (1) provided economically and only when, and to the extent, they are medically reasonable and necessary, (2) of a quality that meets professionally recognized standards of healthcare, and (3) supported by appropriate evidence of medical necessity and quality. The Social Security Act established the Utilization and Quality Control Peer Review Organization program, now known as the Quality Improvement Organization (“QIO”) program, to promote the effectiveness, efficiency, economy and quality of services delivered to Medicare beneficiaries and to ensure that those services are reasonable and necessary. CMS administers the program through a network of QIOs that work with consumers, physicians, hospitals and other caregivers to refine care delivery systems to ensure patients receive the appropriate care at the appropriate time, particularly among underserved populations. The QIO program also safeguards the integrity of the Medicare trust fund by reviewing Medicare patient admissions, treatments and discharges, and ensuring payment is made only for medically necessary services, and investigates beneficiary complaints about quality of care. The QIOs have the authority to deny payment for services provided and recommend to HHS that a provider that is in substantial noncompliance with certain standards be excluded from participating in the Medicare program.
There has been increased scrutiny from outside auditors, government enforcement agencies and others, as well as an increased risk of government investigations and qui tam lawsuits, related to hospitals’ Medicare observation rates and inpatient admission decisions. The term “Medicare observation rate” is defined as total unique observation claims divided by the sum of total unique observation claims and total inpatient short-stay acute care hospital claims. A low rate may raise suspicions that a hospital is inappropriately admitting patients that could be cared for in an observation setting. In addition, CMS has established a concept referred to as the “two-midnight rule” to guide practitioners admitting patients and contractors on when it is appropriate to admit individuals as hospital inpatients. Under the two-midnight rule, a Medicare patient should generally be admitted on an inpatient basis only when there is a reasonable expectation that the patient’s care will cross two midnights; if not, the patient generally should be treated as an outpatient, unless an exception applies. In our affiliated hospitals, we conduct reviews of Medicare inpatient stays of less than two midnights to determine whether a patient qualifies for inpatient admission. Enforcement of the two-midnight rule has not had, and is not expected to have, a material impact on inpatient admission rates at our hospitals.
Medical and surgical services and practices are extensively supervised by committees of staff doctors at each of our healthcare facilities, are overseen by each facility’s local governing board, the members of which primarily are community members and physicians, and are reviewed by our clinical quality personnel. The local governing board also helps maintain standards for quality care, develop short-term and long-range plans, and establish, review and enforce practices and procedures, as well as approves the credentials, disciplining and, if necessary, the termination of privileges of medical staff members.
CERTIFICATE OF NEED REQUIREMENTS
Some states require state approval for construction, acquisition and closure of healthcare facilities, including findings of need for additional or expanded healthcare facilities or services. Certificates or determinations of need, which are issued by governmental agencies with jurisdiction over healthcare facilities, are at times required for capital expenditures exceeding a prescribed amount, changes in bed capacity or services, and certain other matters. Our subsidiaries operate hospitals in six states that require a form of state approval under certificate of need programs applicable to those hospitals. Approximately 71% of our licensed hospital beds are located in these states (namely, Alabama, Florida, Massachusetts, Michigan, South Carolina and Tennessee). The certificate of need programs in most of these states, along with several others, also apply to ambulatory surgery centers.
Failure to obtain necessary state approval can result in the inability to expand facilities, add services, acquire a facility or change ownership. Further, violation of such laws may result in the imposition of civil sanctions or the revocation of a facility’s license. We are unable to predict whether we will be required or able to obtain any additional certificates of need in any jurisdiction where they are required, or if any jurisdiction will eliminate or alter its certificate of need requirements in a manner that will increase competition and, thereby, affect our competitive position. In those states that do not have certificate of need requirements or that do not require review of healthcare capital expenditure amounts below a relatively high threshold, competition in the form of new services, facilities and capital spending is more prevalent.
Our healthcare operations are subject to a number of federal, state and local environmental laws, rules and regulations that govern, among other things, our disposal of solid waste, as well as our use, storage, transportation and disposal of hazardous and toxic materials (including radiological materials). Our operations also generate medical waste that must be disposed of in compliance with statutes and regulations that vary from state to state. In addition, although we are not engaged in manufacturing or other activities that produce meaningful levels of greenhouse gas emissions, our operating expenses could be adversely affected if legal and regulatory developments related to climate change or other initiatives result in increased energy or other costs. We could also be affected by climate change and other environmental issues to the extent such issues adversely affect the general economy or result in severe weather affecting the communities in which our facilities are located. At this time, based on current climate conditions and our assessment of existing and pending environmental rules and regulations, as well as treaties and international accords relating to climate change, we do not believe that the costs of complying with environmental laws, including regulations relating to climate change issues, will have a material adverse effect on our future capital expenditures, results of operations or cash flows. There were no material capital expenditures for environmental matters in the year ended December 31, 2018.
The federal government and most states have enacted antitrust laws that prohibit specific types of anti-competitive conduct, including price fixing, wage fixing, anticompetitive hiring practices, concerted refusals to deal, price discrimination and tying arrangements, as well as monopolization and acquisitions of competitors that have, or may have, a substantial adverse effect on competition. Violations of federal or state antitrust laws can result in various sanctions, including criminal and civil penalties.
Antitrust enforcement in the healthcare industry is currently a priority of the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”). In recent years, the FTC has filed multiple administrative complaints and public comments challenging hospital transactions in several states. The FTC has focused its enforcement efforts on preventing hospital mergers that may, in the government’s view, leave insufficient local options for patient services. In addition to hospital merger enforcement, the FTC has given increased attention to the effect of combinations involving other healthcare providers, including physician practices. The FTC has also entered into numerous consent decrees in the past several years settling allegations of price-fixing among providers.
REGULATIONS AFFECTING CONIFER’S OPERATIONS
Conifer and its subsidiaries are subject to civil and criminal statutes and regulations governing consumer finance, medical billing, coding, collections and other operations. In connection with these laws and regulations, Conifer and its subsidiaries have been and expect to continue to be party to various lawsuits, claims, and federal and state regulatory investigations from time to time. Some of these actions may involve large demands, as well as substantial defense costs. We cannot predict the outcome of current or future legal actions against Conifer and its subsidiaries or the effect that judgments, penalties or settlements in such matters may have on Conifer.
BILLING AND COLLECTION ACTIVITIES
The federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (“FDCPA”) regulates persons who regularly collect or attempt to collect, directly or indirectly, consumer debts owed or asserted to be owed to another person. Certain of the accounts receivable handled by Conifer’s third-party debt collection vendors are subject to the FDCPA, which establishes specific guidelines and procedures that debt collectors must follow in communicating with consumer debtors, including the time, place and manner of such communications. Conifer audits and monitors its vendors for compliance, but there can be no assurance that such audits and monitoring will detect all instances of potential non-compliance.
Many states also regulate the billing and collection practices of creditors who collect their own debt, as well as the companies a creditor engages to bill and collect from consumers on the creditor’s behalf. These state regulations may be more stringent than the FDCPA. In addition, state regulations may be specific to medical billing and collections or the same or similar to state regulations applicable to third-party collectors. Certain of the accounts receivable Conifer or its billing, servicing and collections subsidiary, PSS Patient Solution Services, LLC, manages for its clients are subject to these state regulations.
Conifer and its subsidiaries are also subject to both federal and state regulatory agencies who have the authority to investigate consumer complaints relating to a variety of consumer protection laws, including but not limited to the Telephone Consumer Protection Act and its state equivalent. These agencies may initiate enforcement actions, including actions to seek
restitution and monetary penalties from, or to require changes in business practices of, regulated entities. In addition, affected consumers may bring suits, including class action suits, to seek monetary remedies (including statutory damages) for violations of the federal and state provisions discussed above.
PAYMENT ACTIVITY RISKS
Conifer accepts payments from patients of the facilities for which it provides services using a variety of methods, including credit card, debit card, direct debit from a patient’s bank account, and physical bank check. For certain payment methods, including credit and debit cards, Conifer pays interchange and other fees, which may increase over time, thereby raising operating costs. Conifer relies on third parties to provide payment processing services, including the processing of credit cards, debit cards and electronic checks, and it could disrupt Conifer’s business if these companies become unwilling or unable to provide these services. Conifer is also subject to payment card association operating rules, including data security rules, certification requirements and rules governing electronic funds transfers, which could change or be reinterpreted to make it difficult or impossible for Conifer to comply. If Conifer fails to comply with these rules or requirements, or if its data security systems are breached or compromised, Conifer may be liable for card issuing banks’ costs, be subject to fines and higher transaction fees, and lose its ability to accept credit and debit card payments from patients, process electronic funds transfers, or facilitate other types of online payments.
COMPLIANCE AND ETHICS
General—Our ethics and compliance department maintains our values-based ethics and compliance program, which is designed to (1) help staff in our corporate, USPI and Conifer offices, hospitals, outpatient centers and physician practices meet or exceed applicable standards established by federal and state statutes and regulations, as well as industry practice, (2) monitor and raise awareness of ethical issues among employees and others, and stress the importance of understanding and complying with our Standards of Conduct, and (3) provide a channel for employees to make confidential ethics and compliance-related reports anonymously if they choose. The ethics and compliance department operates independently – it has its own operating budget; it has the authority to hire outside counsel, access any company document and interview any of our personnel; and our chief compliance officer reports directly to the quality, compliance and ethics committee of our board of directors.
Program Charter—Our Quality, Compliance and Ethics Program Charter is the governing document for our ethics and compliance program. Our adherence to the charter is intended to:
support and maintain our present and future responsibilities with regard to participation in federal healthcare programs; and
further our goals of operating an organization that (1) fosters and maintains the highest ethical standards among all employees, officers and directors, physicians practicing at our facilities and contractors that furnish healthcare items or services, (2) values compliance with all state and federal statutes and regulations as a foundation of its corporate philosophy, and (3) aligns its behaviors and decisions with Tenet’s core values of quality, integrity, service, innovation and transparency.
The primary focus of our quality, compliance and ethics program is compliance with the requirements of Medicare, Medicaid and other federally funded healthcare programs. Pursuant to the terms of the charter, our ethics and compliance department is responsible for, among other things, the following activities: (1) ensuring, in collaboration with in-house counsel, facilitation of the Monitor’s activities and compliance with the provisions of the NPA and related company policies; (2) assessing, critiquing, and (as appropriate) drafting and distributing company policies and procedures; (3) developing, providing, and tracking ethics and compliance training and other training programs, including job-specific training to those who work in clinical quality, coding, billing, cost reporting and referral source arrangements, in collaboration with the respective department responsible for oversight of each of these areas; (4) creating and disseminating the Company’s Standards of Conduct and obtaining certifications of adherence to the Standards of Conduct as a condition of employment; (5) maintaining and promoting the Company’s Ethics Action Line, a 24-hour, toll-free hotline that allows for confidential reporting of issues on an anonymous basis and emphasizes the Company’s no-retaliation policy; and (6) responding to and ensuring resolution of all compliance-related issues that arise from the Ethics Action Line and compliance reports received from facilities and compliance officers (utilizing any compliance reporting software that the Company may employ for this purpose) or any other source that results in a report to the ethics and compliance department.
Standards of Conduct—All of our employees, including our chief executive officer, chief financial officer and principal accounting officer, are required to abide by our Standards of Conduct to advance our mission that our business be conducted in a legal and ethical manner. The members of our board of directors and all of our contractors having functional
roles similar to our employees are also required to abide by our Standards of Conduct. The standards reflect our basic values and form the foundation of a comprehensive process that includes compliance with all corporate policies, procedures and practices. Our standards cover such areas as quality patient care, compliance with all applicable statutes and regulations, appropriate use of our assets, protection of patient information and avoidance of conflicts of interest.
As part of the program, we provide training sessions at least annually to every employee, as well as our board of directors and certain physicians and contractors. All employees are required to report incidents that they believe in good faith may be in violation of the Standards of Conduct or our policies, and are encouraged to contact our Ethics Action Line when they have questions about the standards or any ethics concerns. All reports to the Ethics Action Line are kept confidential to the extent allowed by law, and employees have the option to remain anonymous. Incidents of alleged financial improprieties reported to the Ethics Action Line or the ethics and compliance department are communicated to the audit committee of our board of directors. Reported cases that involve a possible violation of the law or regulatory policies and procedures are referred to the ethics and compliance department for investigation, although certain matters may be referred out to the law department. Retaliation against employees in connection with reporting ethical concerns is considered a serious violation of our Standards of Conduct, and, if it occurs, it will result in discipline, up to and including termination of employment.
Non-Prosecution Agreement—In September 2016, our THSMI subsidiary entered into a Non-Prosecution Agreement with the DOJ’s Criminal Division, Fraud Section, and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia. The NPA requires, among other things, that we and THSMI (1) fully cooperate with the Offices in any matters relating to the conduct described in the NPA and other conduct under investigation by the Offices at any time during the term of the NPA, (2) retain an independent compliance monitor to assess, oversee and monitor our compliance with the obligations under the NPA, (3) promptly report any evidence or allegations of actual or potential violations of the Anti-kickback Statute, (4) maintain our compliance and ethics program throughout our operations, including those of our subsidiaries, affiliates, agents and joint ventures (to the extent that we manage or control or THSMI manages or controls such joint ventures), and (5) notify the DOJ and undertake certain other obligations specified in the NPA relative to, among other things, any sale, merger or transfer of all or substantially all of our and THSMI’s respective business operations or the business operations of our or its subsidiaries or affiliates, including an obligation to include in any contract for sale, merger, transfer or other change in corporate form a provision binding the purchaser to retain the commitment of us or THSMI, or any successor-in-interest thereto, to comply with the NPA obligations except as may otherwise be agreed by the parties to the NPA in connection with a particular transaction. Except as may otherwise be agreed by the parties in connection with a particular transaction, if, during the term of the NPA, THSMI undertakes or we undertake any change in corporate form that involves business operations that are material to our consolidated operations or to the operations of any subsidiaries or affiliates involved in the conduct described in the NPA, whether such transaction is structured as a sale, asset sale, merger, transfer or other change in corporate form, we are required to provide notice to the Offices at least 30 days prior to undertaking any such change in corporate form.
The NPA was originally scheduled to expire on February 1, 2020 (three years from the date on which the Monitor was retained); however, the DOJ subsequently extended the expiration date of the NPA by nine months to November 1, 2020 following its determination that we had breached certain reporting obligations under the terms of the NPA. In the event the Offices determine, in their sole discretion, that the Company, or any of its subsidiaries or affiliates, has knowingly violated any provision of the NPA, the NPA could be further extended by the Offices, in their sole discretion without prejudice to the Offices’ other rights under the NPA. Conversely, in the event the Offices find, in their sole discretion, that there exists a change in circumstances sufficient to eliminate the need for a monitor, or that the other provisions of the NPA have been satisfied, the oversight of the Monitor or the NPA itself may be terminated early.
If, during the term of the NPA, THSMI commits any felony under federal law, or if the Company commits any felony related to the Anti-kickback Statute, or if THSMI or the Company fails to cooperate or otherwise fails to fulfill the obligations set forth in the NPA, then THSMI, the Company and our affiliates could be subject to prosecution, exclusion from participation in federal healthcare programs, and other substantial costs and penalties. The Offices retain sole discretion over determining whether there has been a breach of the NPA and whether to pursue prosecution. The NPA provides that, in the event the DOJ determines that the Company or THSMI has breached the NPA, the DOJ will provide written notice prior to instituting any prosecution of the Company or THSMI resulting from such breach. Following receipt of such notice, the Company and THSMI have the opportunity to respond to the DOJ to explain the nature and circumstances of the breach, as well as the actions taken to address and remediate the situation, which the DOJ shall consider in determining whether to pursue prosecution of the Company, THSMI or its affiliates. Any liability or consequences associated with a failure to comply with the NPA could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations or cash flows.
Availability of Documents—The full text of our Quality, Compliance and Ethics Program Charter, our Standards of Conduct, and a number of our ethics and compliance policies and procedures are published on our website, at www.tenethealth.com, under the “Our Commitment To Compliance” caption in the “About Us” section. A copy of our
Standards of Conduct is also available upon written request to our corporate secretary. Information about how to contact our corporate secretary is set forth under “Company Information” below. Amendments to the Standards of Conduct and any grant of a waiver from a provision of the Standards of Conduct requiring disclosure under applicable SEC rules will be disclosed at the same location as the Standards of Conduct on our website. A copy of the NPA is attached as an exhibit to our Current Report on Form 8-K filed with the SEC on October 3, 2016, and the letter agreement amending the term of the NPA, which was finalized on June 1, 2018, is attached as an exhibit to our Report on Form 10-Q for the quarter ended June 30, 2018.
Property Insurance—We have property, business interruption and related insurance coverage to mitigate the financial impact of catastrophic events or perils that is subject to deductible provisions based on the terms of the policies. These policies are on an occurrence basis. For the policy periods April 1, 2017 through March 31, 2018 and April 1, 2018 through March 31, 2019, we have coverage totaling $850 million per occurrence, after deductibles and exclusions, with annual aggregate sub-limits of $100 million for floods, $200 million for earthquakes and a per-occurrence sub-limit of $200 million for named windstorms with no annual aggregate. With respect to fires and other perils, excluding floods, earthquakes and named windstorms, the total $850 million limit of coverage per occurrence applies. Deductibles are 5% of insured values up to a maximum of $25 million for California earthquakes, floods and named windstorms, and 2% of insured values for New Madrid fault earthquakes, with a maximum per claim deductible of $25 million. Floods and certain other covered losses, including fires and other perils, have a minimum deductible of $1 million.
Professional and General Liability Insurance—As is typical in the healthcare industry, we are subject to claims and lawsuits in the ordinary course of business. The healthcare industry has seen significant increases in the cost of professional liability insurance due to increased litigation. In response, we maintain captive insurance companies to self-insure a substantial portion of our professional and general liability risk. We also own a captive insurance company that writes professional liability insurance for a small number of physicians, including employed physicians, who are on the medical staffs of certain of our hospitals.
Claims in excess of our self-insurance retentions are insured with commercial insurance companies. If the aggregate limit of any of our professional and general liability policies is exhausted, in whole or in part, it could deplete or reduce the limits available to pay any other material claims applicable to that policy period. Any losses not covered by or in excess of the amounts maintained under insurance policies will be funded from our working capital.
In addition to the reserves recorded by our captive insurance subsidiaries, we maintain reserves, including reserves for incurred but not reported claims, for our self-insured professional liability retentions and claims in excess of the policies’ aggregate limits, based on modeled estimates of losses and related expenses. Also, we provide standby letters of credit to certain of our insurers, which can be drawn upon under certain circumstances, to collateralize the deductible and self-insured retentions under a selected number of our professional and general liability insurance programs.
Tenet Healthcare Corporation was incorporated in the State of Nevada in 1975. We file annual, quarterly and current reports, proxy statements and other documents with the SEC under the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended (the “Exchange Act”). Our reports, proxy statements and other documents filed electronically with the SEC are available at the website maintained by the SEC at www.sec.gov.
Our website, www.tenethealth.com, also offers, free of charge, access to our annual, quarterly and current reports (and amendments to such reports), and other filings made with, or furnished to, the SEC as soon as reasonably practicable after such documents are submitted to the SEC. The information found on our website is not part of this or any other report we file with or furnish to the SEC.
Inquiries directed to our corporate secretary may be sent to Corporate Secretary, Tenet Healthcare Corporation, P.O. Box 139003, Dallas, Texas 75313-9003 or by e-mail at CorporateSecretary@tenethealth.com.
Information about our executive officers, as of February 25, 2019, is as follows:
Ronald A. Rittenmeyer
Executive Chairman and Chief Executive Officer
Saumya Sutaria, M.D.
Chief Operating Officer
Daniel J. Cancelmi
Chief Financial Officer
Keith B. Pitts
Audrey T. Andrews
Senior Vice President and General Counsel
Mr. Rittenmeyer was named Tenet’s executive chairman in August 2017 and chief executive officer in October 2017. He has served on Tenet’s board of directors since 2010, most recently as lead director. He previously served as chairman of the board and chief executive officer of Millennium Health, a health solutions company. He served as the chairman, president and chief executive officer of Expert Global Solutions, Inc., a provider of business process outsourcing services, from 2011 to 2014. From 2005 to 2008, Mr. Rittenmeyer held a number of senior management positions with Electronic Data Systems Corporation, including chairman and chief executive officer from 2007 to 2008, president from 2006 to 2008, chief operating officer from 2005 to 2007 and executive vice president, global service delivery, from 2005 to 2006. Prior to that, he was a managing director of the Cypress Group, a private equity firm, serving from 2004 to 2005. He served as chairman, chief executive officer and president of Safety-Kleen Corp. from 2001 to 2004. Among his other leadership roles, Mr. Rittenmeyer served as chief executive officer and president of AmeriServe Food Distribution Inc. from 2000 to 2001, chairman, chief executive officer and president of RailTex, Inc. from 1998 to 2000, president and chief operating officer of Ryder TRS, Inc. from 1997 to 1998, president and chief operating officer of Merisel, Inc. from 1995 to 1996 and chief operating officer of Burlington Northern Railroad Co. from 1994 to 1995. Mr. Rittenmeyer received his bachelor of science degree in commerce and economics from Wilkes University and his M.B.A. from Rockhurst University. He is chairman of the Federation of American Hospitals’ board of directors, and he currently serves on the board of directors of two other public companies: American International Group, Inc. and IQVIA Holdings Inc.
Dr. Sutaria was appointed Tenet’s chief operating officer in January 2019. In this role, he oversees all of Tenet’s acute care hospitals and hospital-affiliated outpatient facilities and physician practices. He also leads other functions across the enterprise within Tenet, USPI and Conifer. Prior to joining the Company, Dr. Sutaria worked for McKinsey & Company for 18 years, most recently as a Senior Partner providing advisory support for hospitals, healthcare systems, physicians groups, ambulatory care models, integrated delivery, and government-led delivery, while also working with institutional investors in healthcare. He previously held an associate clinical faculty appointment at the University of California at San Francisco, where he also engaged in postgraduate training with a focus in internal medicine and cardiology. Dr. Sutaria received his bachelor’s degree in molecular and cellular biology and his bachelor’s degree in economics, both from the University of California, Berkeley, as well as his M.D. from the University of California, San Diego.
Mr. Cancelmi was appointed Tenet’s chief financial officer in September 2012. He previously served as senior vice president from April 2009, principal accounting officer from April 2007 and controller from September 2004. Mr. Cancelmi was a vice president and assistant controller at Tenet from September 1999 until his promotion to controller. He joined the Company as chief financial officer of Hahnemann University Hospital. Prior to that, he held various positions at PricewaterhouseCoopers, including in the firm’s National Accounting and SEC office in New York City. Mr. Cancelmi is a certified public accountant who received his bachelor’s degree in accounting from Duquesne University in Pittsburgh. He is also a member of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants and the Florida and Pennsylvania Institutes of Certified Public Accountants.
Mr. Pitts was appointed vice chairman following Tenet’s acquisition of Vanguard Health Systems, Inc. (“Vanguard”) in October 2013. He was Vanguard’s vice chairman from May 2001 until the acquisition and an executive vice president from August 1999 until May 2001. Mr. Pitts also served as a director of Vanguard from August 1999 until September 2004. Before joining Vanguard, Mr. Pitts was the chairman and chief executive officer of Mariner Post-Acute Network and its predecessor, Paragon Health Network, a nursing home management company, from November 1997 until June 1999. He served as the executive vice president and chief financial officer for OrNda HealthCorp, prior to its acquisition by Tenet, from August 1992 to January 1997, and, before that, as a consultant to many healthcare organizations, including as a partner in Ernst & Young’s healthcare consulting practice. Mr. Pitts is a certified public accountant who received his bachelor’s degree in business administration from the University of Florida. He is a member of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants and the Florida Institute of Certified Public Accountants.
Ms. Andrews was appointed senior vice president and general counsel in January 2013. In this capacity, she oversees the law department and government relations for Tenet, USPI and Conifer. From July 2008 through December 2012, she served as senior vice president and chief compliance officer and, prior to that, served as vice president and chief compliance officer from November 2006. She joined Tenet in 1998 as hospital operations counsel. Ms. Andrews received her J.D. and her bachelor’s degree in government, both from the University of Texas at Austin. She is a member of the American and Texas Bar Associations and the American Health Lawyers Association.
This report includes “forward-looking statements” within the meaning of Section 27A of the Securities Act of 1933 and Section 21E of the Exchange Act, each as amended. All statements, other than statements of historical or present facts, that address activities, events, outcomes, business strategies and other matters that we plan, expect, intend, assume, believe, budget, predict, forecast, project, estimate or anticipate (and other similar expressions) will, should or may occur in the future are forward-looking statements, including (but not limited to) disclosure regarding our future earnings, financial position, operational and strategic initiatives, and developments in the healthcare industry. Forward-looking statements represent management’s expectations, based on currently available information, as to the outcome and timing of future events, but, by their nature, address matters that are indeterminate. They involve known and unknown risks, uncertainties and other factors, many of which we are unable to predict or control, that may cause our actual results, performance or achievements to be materially different from those expressed or implied by forward-looking statements. Such factors include, but are not limited to, the following:
Our ability to achieve operating and financial targets, attain expected levels of patient volumes, and identify and execute on measures designed to save or control costs or streamline operations, including our ability to realize savings under our cost-reduction initiatives;
The outcome of the process we have undertaken to explore a sale of or other strategic alternatives for Conifer;
Potential disruptions to our business or diverted management attention as a result of the Conifer strategic review process or our cost-reduction efforts, including our plans to outsource certain functions unrelated to direct patient care;
The impact on our business of recent and future modifications of or judicial challenges to the Affordable Care Act and the enactment of, or changes in, other statutes and regulations affecting the healthcare industry generally;
Cuts to Medicare and Medicaid payment rates or changes in reimbursement practices or to Medicaid supplemental payment programs;
Adverse regulatory developments, government investigations or litigation;
Adverse developments with respect to our ability to comply with the terms of the Non-Prosecution Agreement, including any breach of the agreement;
Our ability to enter into or renew managed care provider arrangements on acceptable terms; and changes in service mix, revenue mix and surgical volumes, including potential declines in the population covered under managed care agreements;
The effect that adverse economic conditions, consumer behavior and other factors have on our volumes and our ability to collect outstanding receivables on a timely basis, among other things; and increases in the amount of uninsured accounts and deductibles and copays for insured accounts;
Our success in completing acquisitions, divestitures and other corporate development transactions; and our success in entering into, and managing the relationships and risks associated with, joint ventures;
Our success in recruiting and retaining physicians and other healthcare professionals;
The impact of competition on all aspects of our business;
The impact of our significant indebtedness; the availability and terms of capital to refinance existing debt, fund our operations and expand our business; and our ability to comply with our debt covenants and, over time, reduce leverage;
Potential security threats, catastrophic events and other disruptions affecting our information technology and related systems;
The timing and impact of additional changes in federal tax laws, regulations and policies, and the outcome of pending and any future tax audits, disputes and litigation associated with our tax positions; and
Other factors and risks referenced in this report and our other public filings.
When considering forward-looking statements, you should keep in mind the risk factors and other cautionary statements in this report. Should one or more of the risks and uncertainties described in this report occur, or should underlying assumptions prove incorrect, our actual results and plans could differ materially from those expressed in any forward-looking statement. We specifically disclaim any obligation to update any information contained in a forward-looking statement or any forward-looking statement in its entirety, except as required by law.
All forward-looking statements attributable to us are expressly qualified in their entirety by this cautionary statement.
ITEM 1A. RISK FACTORS
Our business is subject to a number of risks and uncertainties, many of which are beyond our control, that may cause our actual operating results or financial performance to be materially different from our expectations. If one or more of the events discussed in this report were to occur, actual outcomes could differ materially from those expressed in or implied by any forward-looking statements we make in this report or our other filings with the SEC, and our business, financial condition, results of operations or liquidity could be materially adversely affected; furthermore, the trading price of our common stock could decline and our shareholders could lose all or part of their investment. Additional risks and uncertainties not presently known, or currently deemed immaterial, may also constrain our business and operations.
We cannot predict the impact that modifications of the Affordable Care Act may have on our business, financial condition, results of operations or cash flows.
The initial expansion of health insurance coverage under the Affordable Care Act resulted in an increase in the number of patients using our facilities with either private or public program coverage and a decrease in uninsured and charity care admissions. Although a substantial portion of both our patient volumes and, as result, our revenues has historically been derived from government healthcare programs, reductions to our reimbursement under the Medicare and Medicaid programs as a result of the ACA have been partially offset by increased revenues from providing care to previously uninsured individuals.
The President issued an executive order in January 2017 declaring that it is the official policy of his administration to seek the prompt repeal of the ACA and directing the heads of all executive departments and agencies to minimize the economic and regulatory burdens of the ACA to the maximum extent permitted by law while the ACA remains in effect. The White House also sent a memorandum to federal agencies directing them to freeze any new or pending regulations. In October 2017, the administration announced that reimbursements to insurance companies for ACA cost-sharing reductionplans offered through the health insurance marketplace would be discontinued. CSR payments compensate insurers for subsidizing out-of-pocket costs for low-income enrollees. Without the CSR payments, many insurers increased premiums for plans offered on ACA exchanges and a few withdrew entirely from offering plans on some of the exchanges. In addition, in December 2017, Congress passed and the President signed a tax reform bill into law that, among other things, eliminates the ACA’s individual mandate penalty for not buying health insurance starting in 2019. The Congressional Budget Office and the staff of the Joint Committee on Taxation estimated that eliminating the mandate penalty starting in 2019 – and making no other changes to the then-current law – would cause the number of people with health insurance to decrease by 4 million in 2019 and 13 million in 2027. Members of Congress have also proposed measures that would expand government-sponsored coverage, including single-payer proposals. We cannot predict if or when further modification of the ACA will occur or what action, if any, Congress might take with respect to eventually repealing and possibly replacing the law.
Furthermore, there have also been successful judicial challenges to the ACA, including a December 2018 ruling by the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas that the ACA’s individual mandate is unconstitutional. Because the judge’s order was stayed pending appeal, the decision’s near-term impact on health insurance coverage under the ACA may be limited; however, uncertainty over the future of the ACA has intensified. The ultimate outcome of this decision and other
judicial challenges is indeterminate. We are also unable to predict the impact of administrative, regulatory and legislative changes, and market reactions to those changes, on our future revenues and operations. However, if the ultimate impact is that significantly fewer individuals have private or public health coverage, we likely will experience decreased volumes, reduced revenues and an increase in uncompensated care, which would adversely affect our results of operations and cash flows. This negative effect will be exacerbated if the ACA’s reductions in Medicare reimbursement and reductions in Medicare DSH payments that have already taken effect are not reversed if the law is repealed or if further reductions (including Medicaid DSH reductions scheduled to take effect in federal fiscal years 2020 through 2025) are made.
Further changes in the Medicare and Medicaid programs or other government healthcare programs, including reductions in scale and scope, could have an adverse effect on our business.
For the year ended December 31, 2018, approximately 20% and 9% of our net patient service revenues from our hospitals and related outpatient facilities were from the Medicare program and various state Medicaid programs, respectively, in each case excluding Medicare and Medicaid managed care programs. The Medicare and Medicaid programs are subject to: statutory and regulatory changes, administrative rulings, interpretations and determinations concerning patient eligibility requirements, funding levels and the method of calculating payments or reimbursements, among other things; requirements for utilization review; and federal and state funding restrictions, all of which could materially increase or decrease payments from these government programs in the future, as well as affect the cost of providing services to our patients and the timing of payments to our facilities, which could in turn adversely affect our overall business, financial condition, results of operations or cash flows.
Several states in which we operate face budgetary challenges that have resulted, and likely will continue to result, in reduced Medicaid funding levels to hospitals and other providers. Because most states must operate with balanced budgets, and the Medicaid program is generally a significant portion of a state’s budget, states can be expected to adopt or consider adopting future legislation designed to reduce or not increase their Medicaid expenditures. In addition, some states delay issuing Medicaid payments to providers to manage state expenditures. As an alternative means of funding provider payments, many of the states in which we operate have adopted provider fee programs or have received federal government waivers allowing them to test new approaches and demonstration projects to improve care. The timing of federal approval of these state-based Medicaid provider fee revenue programs – particularly the California provider fee program – may have an impact on our net operating revenues and cash flows in any given period. Continuing pressure on state budgets and other factors could result in future reductions to Medicaid payments, payment delays, changes to Medicaid supplemental payment programs or additional taxes on hospitals.
In general, we are unable to predict the effect of future government healthcare funding policy changes on our operations. If the rates paid by governmental payers are reduced, if the scope of services covered by governmental payers is limited, or if we or one or more of our subsidiaries’ hospitals are excluded from participation in the Medicare or Medicaid program or any other government healthcare program, there could be a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations or cash flows.
Our business and financial results could be harmed if we are alleged to have violated existing regulations or if we fail to comply with new or changed regulations.
Our hospitals, outpatient centers and related healthcare businesses are subject to extensive federal, state and local regulation relating to, among other things, licensure, contractual arrangements, conduct of operations, privacy of patient information, ownership of facilities, physician relationships, addition of facilities and services, and reimbursement rates for services. The laws, rules and regulations governing the healthcare industry are extremely complex and, in certain areas, the industry has little or no regulatory or judicial interpretation for guidance. Moreover, under the ACA, the government and its contractors may suspend Medicare and Medicaid payments to providers of services “pending an investigation of a credible allegation of fraud.” The potential consequences for violating such laws, rules or regulations include reimbursement of government program payments, the assessment of civil monetary penalties, including treble damages, fines, which could be significant, exclusion from participation in federal healthcare programs, or criminal sanctions against current or former employees, any of which could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition or cash flows. Even a public announcement that we are being investigated for possible violations of law could have a material adverse effect on the value of our common stock and our business reputation could suffer.
Furthermore, healthcare, as one of the largest industries in the United States, continues to attract much legislative interest and public attention. We are unable to predict the future course of federal, state and local healthcare regulation or legislation, including Medicare and Medicaid statutes and regulations. Further changes in the regulatory framework negatively
affecting healthcare providers could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations or cash flows.
As we explore outsourcing and offshoring of certain functions unrelated to direct patient care to enhance efficiency, we must ensure that those operations will be compliant with U.S. healthcare industry-specific requirements. In addition, we are required to comply with various federal and state labor laws, rules and regulations governing a variety of workplace wage and hour issues. From time to time, we have been and expect to continue to be subject to regulatory proceedings and private litigation concerning our application of such laws, rules and regulations.
Conifer and its subsidiaries are subject to numerous federal, state and local consumer protection and other laws governing such topics as privacy, financial services, and billing and collections activities. Regulations governing Conifer’s operations are subject to changing interpretations that may be inconsistent among different jurisdictions. In addition, a regulatory determination made by, or a settlement or consent decree entered into with, one regulatory agency may not be binding upon, or preclude, investigations or regulatory actions by other agencies. Conifer’s failure to comply with applicable consumer protection and other laws could result in, among other things, the issuance of cease and desist orders (which can include orders for restitution or rescission of contracts, as well as other kinds of affirmative relief), the imposition of fines or refunds, and other civil and criminal penalties, some of which could be significant in the case of knowing or reckless violations. In addition, Conifer’s failure to comply with the statutes and regulations applicable to it could result in reduced demand for its services, invalidate all or portions of some of Conifer’s services agreements with its clients, give clients the right to terminate Conifer’s services agreements with them or give rise to contractual liabilities, among other things, any of which could have a material adverse effect on Conifer’s business. Furthermore, if Conifer or its subsidiaries become subject to fines or other penalties, it could harm Conifer’s reputation, thereby making it more difficult for Conifer to retain existing clients or attract new clients.
If we breach or otherwise fail to comply with our Non-Prosecution Agreement, we could be subject to criminal prosecution, substantial penalties and exclusion from participation in federal healthcare programs, any of which could adversely impact our business, financial condition, results of operations or cash flows.
In September 2016, one of our subsidiaries, Tenet HealthSystem Medical, Inc., entered into a Non-Prosecution Agreement with the DOJ’s Criminal Division, Fraud Section, and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia, as described in “Compliance and Ethics – Non-Prosecution Agreement” above. If, during the term of the NPA, THSMI commits any felony under federal law, or if the Company commits any felony related to the Anti-kickback Statute, or if THSMI or the Company fails to cooperate or otherwise fails to fulfill the obligations set forth in the NPA, then THSMI, the Company and our affiliates could be subject to prosecution, exclusion from participation in federal healthcare programs, and other substantial costs and penalties. The Offices retain sole discretion over determining whether there has been a breach of the NPA and whether to pursue prosecution. Any liability or consequences associated with a failure to comply with the NPA could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations or cash flows.
We could be subject to substantial uninsured liabilities or increased insurance costs as a result of significant legal actions.
We are subject to medical malpractice lawsuits, antitrust and employment class action lawsuits, and other legal actions in the ordinary course of business. Some of these actions may involve large demands, as well as substantial defense costs. Even in states that have imposed caps on damages, litigants are seeking recoveries under new theories of liability that might not be subject to such caps. Our professional and general liability insurance does not cover all claims against us, and it may not continue to be available at a reasonable cost for us to maintain at adequate levels, as the healthcare industry has seen significant increases in the cost of such insurance due to increased litigation. We cannot predict the outcome of current or future legal actions against us or the effect that judgments or settlements in such matters may have on us or on our insurance costs. Additionally, all professional and general liability insurance we purchase is subject to policy limitations. If the aggregate limit of any of our professional and general liability policies is exhausted, in whole or in part, it could deplete or reduce the limits available to pay any other material claims applicable to that policy period. Any losses not covered by or in excess of the amounts maintained under insurance policies will be funded from our working capital. Furthermore, one or more of our insurance carriers could become insolvent and unable to fulfill its or their obligations to defend, pay or reimburse us when those obligations become due. In that case or if payments of claims exceed our estimates or are not covered by our insurance, it could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations or cash flows.
If we are unable to enter into, maintain and renew managed care contractual arrangements on acceptable terms, if we experience material reductions in the contracted rates we receive from managed care payers or if we have difficulty collecting from managed care payers, our results of operations could be adversely affected.
The amount of our managed care net patient service revenues, including Medicare and Medicaid managed care programs, from our hospitals and related outpatient facilities during the year ended December 31, 2018 was approximately $9.2 billion, which represented approximately 65% of our total net patient service revenues. In addition, in the year ended December 31, 2018, our commercial managed care net inpatient revenue per admission from the hospitals and related outpatient facilities in our Hospital Operations and other segment was approximately 89% higher than our aggregate yield on a per admission basis from government payers, including managed Medicare and Medicaid insurance plans. Our ability to negotiate favorable contracts with HMOs, insurers offering preferred provider arrangements and other managed care plans, as well as add new facilities to our existing agreements at contracted rates, significantly affects our revenues and operating results. We currently have thousands of managed care contracts with various HMOs and PPOs; however, our top ten managed care payers generated 65% of our managed care net patient service revenues for the year ended December 31, 2018. Because of this concentration, we may experience a short or long-term adverse effect on our net operating revenues if we cannot renew, replace or otherwise mitigate the impact of expired contracts with significant payers. Furthermore, any disputes between us and significant managed care payers could have a material adverse effect on our financial condition, results of operations or cash flows. At December 31, 2018, 61% of our net accounts receivable for our Hospital Operations and other segment was due from managed care payers.
Private payers are increasingly attempting to control healthcare costs through direct contracting with hospitals to provide services on a discounted basis, increased utilization reviews and greater enrollment in managed care programs, such as HMOs and PPOs. Any negotiated discount programs we agree to generally limit our ability to increase charges in response to increasing costs. Furthermore, the ongoing trend toward consolidation among private managed care payers tends to increase their bargaining power over prices and fee structures. Our future success will depend, in part, on our ability to renew existing managed care contracts and enter into new managed care contracts on competitive terms. Other healthcare companies, including some with greater financial resources, greater geographic coverage or a wider range of services, may compete with us for these opportunities. For example, some of our competitors may negotiate exclusivity provisions with managed care plans or otherwise restrict the ability of managed care companies to contract with us. Any material reductions in the contracted rates we receive for our services or any significant difficulties in collecting receivables from managed care payers could have a material adverse effect on our financial condition, results of operations or cash flows.
Our cost-reduction initiatives may not deliver the benefits we expect, and actions taken may adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations.
Our future financial performance and level of profitability is dependent, in part, on various cost-reduction initiatives, including a recently announced strategy to explore outsourcing certain functions unrelated to direct patient care. We may encounter challenges in executing our cost-reduction initiatives and not achieve the intended cost savings. In addition, we may face wrongful termination, discrimination or other legal claims from employees affected by any workforce reductions, and we may incur substantial costs defending against such claims, regardless of their merits. Such claims may also significantly increase our severance costs. Workforce reductions, whether as a result of internal restructuring or in connection with outsourcing efforts, may result in the loss of numerous long-term employees, the loss of institutional knowledge and expertise, the reallocation of certain job responsibilities and the disruption of business continuity, all of which could negatively affect operational efficiencies and increase our operating expenses in the short term. Moreover, outsourcing and offshoring may expose us to additional risks, such as reduced control over operational quality and timing, foreign political and economic instability, and compliance and regulatory challenges. Our failure to effectively execute our cost-reduction initiatives may lead to significant volatility, and a decline, in the price of our common stock. We cannot guarantee that our cost-reduction initiatives will be successful, and we may need to take additional steps in the future to achieve our profitability goals.
We cannot provide any assurances that we will be successful in divesting assets in non-core markets or that we will complete the process we have initiated for the potential divestiture of or other transaction involving Conifer.
We continue to exit service lines, businesses and markets that we believe are no longer strategic to our long-term growth. To that end, in 2018 we divested eight hospitals in the United States, as well as all of our operations in the United Kingdom. In addition, in January 2019, we completed the previously announced sale of three hospitals in the Chicago area that we owned at December 31, 2018. We cannot provide any assurances that completed, planned or future divestitures will achieve their business goals or the cost and service synergies we expect. We also cannot predict the outcome of the process we have been exploring regarding strategic alternatives for Conifer, including a potential sale or merger, a tax-efficient spin-off or a combination of alternative transactions.
With respect to all proposed divestitures of assets or businesses, we may fail to obtain applicable regulatory approvals for such divestitures, including any approval that may be required under our NPA. Moreover, we may encounter difficulties in finding acquirers or alternative exit strategies on terms that are favorable to us, which could delay the receipt of anticipated proceeds necessary for us to complete our planned strategic objectives. In addition, our divestiture activities have required, and may in the future require, us to retain significant pre-closing liabilities, recognize impairment charges (as discussed below) or agree to contractual restrictions that limit our ability to reenter the applicable market, which may be material. Furthermore, our divestiture or other corporate development activities may present financial and operational risks, including (1) the diversion of management attention from existing core businesses, (2) adverse effects (including a deterioration in the related asset or business and, in Conifer’s case, the loss of existing clients and the difficulties associated with securing new clients) from the announcement of the planned or potential divestiture, and (3) the challenges associated with separating personnel and financial and other systems.
A divestiture or other separation of Conifer could adversely affect our earnings and cash flows.
Conifer contributes a significant portion of the Company’s earnings and cash flows. We have been engaged in a process to consider a divestiture or other strategic alternatives for Conifer, such as a merger, a tax-efficient spin-off or a combination of alternative transactions. Although there can be no assurance that this process will result in a consummated transaction, any separation of all or a portion of Conifer’s business could adversely affect our earnings and cash flows.
Economic factors, consumer behavior and other dynamics have affected, and may continue to impact, our business, financial condition and results of operations.
We believe broad economic factors (including high unemployment rates in some of the markets our facilities serve), instability in consumer spending, uncertainty regarding the future of the Affordable Care Act, and the continued shift of additional financial responsibility to insured patients through higher co-pays, deductibles and premium contributions, among other dynamics, have affected our service mix, revenue mix and volumes, as well as our ability to collect outstanding receivables. Any increase in the amount or deterioration in the collectability of patient accounts receivable will adversely affect our cash flows and results of operations. The U.S. economy remains unpredictable. If industry trends, such as reductions in commercial managed care enrollment and patient decisions to postpone or cancel elective and non-emergency healthcare procedures, worsen or if general economic conditions deteriorate, we may not be able to sustain future profitability, and our liquidity and ability to repay our outstanding debt may be harmed.
Trends affecting our actual or anticipated results may require us to record charges that may negatively impact our results of operations.
As a result of factors that have negatively affected our industry generally and our business specifically, we have been required to record various charges in our results of operations. During the years ended December 31, 2018 and 2017, we recorded impairment charges of $77 million and $402 million, respectively. Our impairment tests presume stable, improving or, in some cases, declining operating results in our hospitals, which are based on programs and initiatives being implemented that are designed to achieve the hospitals’ most recent projections. If these projections are not met, or negative trends occur that impact our future outlook, future impairments of long-lived assets and goodwill may occur, and we may incur additional restructuring charges, which could be material. Future restructuring of our operating structure that changes our goodwill reporting units could also result in future impairments of our goodwill. Any such charges could negatively impact our results of operations.
When we acquire new assets or businesses, we become subject to various risks and uncertainties that could adversely affect our results of operations and financial condition.
We have completed a number of acquisitions in recent years, and we expect to pursue similar transactions in the future. A key business strategy for USPI, in particular, is the acquisition and development of facilities, primarily through the formation of joint ventures with physicians and healthcare systems. With respect to planned or future transactions, we cannot provide any assurances that we will be able to identify suitable candidates, consummate transactions on terms that are favorable to us, or achieve synergies or other benefits in a timely manner or at all. Furthermore, companies or operations acquired may not be profitable or may not achieve the profitability that justifies the investments made. In addition, we may face significant challenges in integrating personnel and financial and other systems. Future acquisitions could result in potentially dilutive issuances of equity securities, the incurrence of additional debt and contingent liabilities, and increased operating expenses, any of which could adversely affect our results of operations and financial condition.
USPI and our hospital-based joint ventures depend on existing relationships with key healthcare system partners. If we are unable to maintain historical relationships with these healthcare systems, or enter into new relationships, we may be unable to implement our business strategies successfully.
USPI and our hospital-based joint ventures depend in part on the efforts, reputations and success of healthcare system partners and the strength of our relationships with those healthcare systems. Our joint ventures could be adversely affected by any damage to those healthcare systems’ reputations or to our relationships with them. In addition, damage to our business reputation could negatively impact the willingness of healthcare systems to enter into relationships with us or USPI. If we are unable to maintain existing arrangements on favorable terms or enter into relationships with additional healthcare system partners, we may be unable to implement our business strategies for our joint ventures successfully.
The remaining put/call arrangements associated with USPI, if settled in cash, will require us to utilize our cash flow or incur additional indebtedness to satisfy the payment obligations in respect of such arrangements.
As part of the formation of USPI in 2015, we entered into a put/call agreement with respect to the equity interests in USPI held by our joint venture partners at that time. During 2016, 2017 and 2018, we paid $1.473 billion in the aggregate to purchase additional shares of USPI to increase our ownership interest in USPI to 95%.
We have also entered into a separate put/call agreement (the “Baylor Put/Call Agreement”) with respect to the remaining 5% outside ownership interest in USPI held by Baylor University Medical Center. Each year starting in 2021, Baylor may require us to purchase, or “put” to us, up to 33.3% of their total shares in USPI held as of January 1, 2017. In each year that Baylor does not put the full 33.3% of USPI’s shares allowable, we may call the difference between the number of shares Baylor put and the maximum number of shares they could have put that year. In addition, the Baylor Put/Call Agreement contains a call option pursuant to which we have the ability to acquire all of Baylor’s ownership interest by 2024. In each case, we have the ability to choose whether to settle the purchase price for the Baylor put/call in cash or shares of our common stock.
The put and call arrangements described above, to the extent settled in cash, may require us to dedicate a substantial portion of our cash flow to satisfy our payment obligations in respect of such arrangements, which may reduce the amount of funds available for our operations, capital expenditures and corporate development activities. Similarly, we may be required to incur additional indebtedness to satisfy our payment obligations in respect of such arrangements, which could have important consequences to our business and operations, as described more fully below under “Our level of indebtedness could, among other things, adversely affect our ability to raise additional capital to fund our operations, limit our ability to react to changes in the economy or our industry, and prevent us from meeting our obligations under the agreements relating to our indebtedness.”
Our joint venture arrangements are subject to a number of operational risks that could have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations and financial condition.
We have invested in a number of joint ventures with other entities when circumstances warranted the use of these structures, and we may form additional joint ventures in the future. These joint ventures may not be profitable or may not achieve the profitability that justifies the investments made. Furthermore, the nature of a joint venture requires us to consult with and share certain decision-making powers with unaffiliated third parties, some of which may be not-for-profit healthcare systems. If our joint venture partners do not fulfill their obligations, the affected joint venture may not be able to operate according to its business or strategic plans. In that case, our results could be adversely affected or we may be required to increase our level of financial commitment to the joint venture. Moreover, differences in economic or business interests or goals among joint venture participants could result in delayed decisions, failures to agree on major issues and even litigation. If these differences cause the joint ventures to deviate from their business or strategic plans, or if our joint venture partners take actions contrary to our policies, objectives or the best interests of the joint venture, our results could be adversely affected. In addition, our relationships with not-for-profit healthcare systems and the joint venture agreements that govern these relationships are intended to be structured to comply with current revenue rulings published by the Internal Revenue Service, as well as case law relevant to joint ventures between for-profit and not-for-profit healthcare entities. Material changes in these authorities could adversely affect our relationships with not-for-profit healthcare systems and related joint venture arrangements.
Our participation in joint ventures is also subject to the risks that:
We could experience an impasse on certain decisions because we do not have sole decision-making authority, which could require us to expend additional resources on resolving such impasses or potential disputes.
We may not be able to maintain good relationships with our joint venture partners (including healthcare systems), which could limit our future growth potential and could have an adverse effect on our business strategies.
Our joint venture partners could have investment or operational goals that are not consistent with our corporate-wide objectives, including the timing, terms and strategies for investments or future growth opportunities.
Our joint venture partners might become bankrupt, fail to fund their share of required capital contributions or fail to fulfill their other obligations as joint venture partners, which may require us to infuse our own capital into any such venture on behalf of the related joint venture partner or partners despite other competing uses for such capital.
Many of our existing joint ventures require that one of our wholly owned affiliates provide a working capital line of credit to the joint venture, which could require us to allocate substantial financial resources to the joint venture potentially impacting our ability to fund our other short-term obligations.
Some of our existing joint ventures require mandatory capital expenditures for the benefit of the applicable joint venture, which could limit our ability to expend funds on other corporate opportunities.
Our joint venture partners may have exit rights that would require us to purchase their interests upon the occurrence of certain events or the passage of certain time periods, which could impact our financial condition by requiring us to incur additional indebtedness in order to complete such transactions or, alternatively, in some cases we may have the option to issue shares of our common stock to our joint venture partners to satisfy such obligations, which would dilute the ownership of our existing stockholders.
Our joint venture partners may have competing interests in our markets that could create conflict of interest issues.
Any sale or other disposition of our interest in a joint venture or underlying assets of the joint venture may require consents from our joint venture partners, which we may not be able to obtain.
Certain corporate-wide or strategic transactions may also trigger other contractual rights held by a joint venture partner (including termination or liquidation rights) depending on how the transaction is structured, which could impact our ability to complete such transactions.
Our joint venture arrangements that involve financial and ownership relationships with physicians and others who either refer or influence the referral of patients to our hospitals or other healthcare facilities are subject to greater regulatory scrutiny from government enforcement agencies. While we endeavor to comply with the applicable safe harbors under the Anti-kickback Statute, certain of our current arrangements, including joint venture arrangements, do not qualify for safe harbor protection.
It is essential to our ongoing business that we attract an appropriate number of quality physicians in the specialties required to support our services and that we maintain good relations with those physicians.
The success of our business depends in significant part on the number, quality, specialties, and admitting and scheduling practices of the licensed physicians who have been admitted to the medical staffs of our hospitals and other facilities, as well as physicians who affiliate with us and use our facilities as an extension of their practices. Physicians are often not employees of the hospitals or surgery centers at which they practice. Members of the medical staffs of our facilities also often serve on the medical staffs of facilities we do not operate, and they are free to terminate their association with our facilities or admit their patients to competing facilities at any time. In addition, although physicians who own interests in our facilities are generally subject to agreements restricting them from owning an interest in competitive facilities, we may not learn of, or be unsuccessful in preventing, our physician partners from acquiring interests in competitive facilities.
We expect to encounter increased competition from health insurers and private equity companies seeking to acquire providers in the markets where we operate physician practices and, where permitted by law, employ physicians. In some of our markets, physician recruitment and retention are affected by a shortage of physicians in certain specialties and the difficulties that physicians can experience in obtaining affordable malpractice insurance or finding insurers willing to provide such insurance. Furthermore, our ability to recruit and employ physicians is closely regulated. For example, the types, amount and duration of compensation and assistance we can provide to recruited physicians are limited by the Stark law, the Anti-kickback Statute, state anti-kickback statutes and related regulations. All arrangements with physicians must also be fair market value
and commercially reasonable. If we are unable to attract and retain sufficient numbers of quality physicians by providing adequate support personnel, technologically advanced equipment, and facilities that meet the needs of those physicians and their patients, physicians may choose not to refer patients to our facilities, admissions and outpatient visits may decrease and our operating performance may decline.
Our labor costs could be adversely affected by competition for staffing, the shortage of experienced nurses and labor union activity.
The operations of our facilities are dependent on the efforts, abilities and experience of our management and medical support personnel, including nurses, therapists, pharmacists and lab technicians, as well as our employed physicians. We compete with other healthcare providers in recruiting and retaining employees, and, like others in the healthcare industry, we continue to experience a shortage of critical-care nurses in certain disciplines and geographic areas. As a result, from time to time, we may be required to enhance wages and benefits to recruit and retain experienced employees, make greater investments in education and training for newly licensed medical support personnel, or hire more expensive temporary or contract employees. Furthermore, state-mandated nurse-staffing ratios in California affect not only our labor costs, but, if we are unable to hire the necessary number of experienced nurses to meet the required ratios, they may also cause us to limit volumes, which would have a corresponding adverse effect on our net operating revenues. In general, our failure to recruit and retain qualified management, experienced nurses and other medical support personnel, or to control labor costs, could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations or cash flows.
Increased labor union activity is another factor that could adversely affect our labor costs. At December 31, 2018, approximately 26% of the employees in our Hospital Operations and other segment were represented by labor unions. Less than 1% of the employees in our Ambulatory Care and Conifer segments belong to a union. Unionized employees – primarily registered nurses and service, technical and maintenance workers – are located at 35 of our hospitals, the majority of which are in California, Florida and Michigan. When negotiating collective bargaining agreements with unions, whether such agreements are renewals or first contracts, there is a possibility that strikes could occur, and our continued operation during any strikes could increase our labor costs and have an adverse effect on our patient volumes and net operating revenues. Organizing activities by labor unions could increase our level of union representation in future periods, which could result in increases in salaries, wages and benefits expense.
Our hospitals, outpatient centers and other healthcare businesses operate in competitive environments, and competition in our markets can adversely affect patient volumes.
The healthcare business is highly competitive, and competition among hospitals and other healthcare providers for patients has intensified in recent years. Generally, other hospitals and outpatient centers in the local communities we serve provide services similar to those we offer, and, in some cases, our competitors (1) are more established or newer than ours, (2) may offer a broader array of services or more desirable facilities to patients and physicians than ours, and (3) may have larger or more specialized medical staffs to admit and refer patients, among other things. Furthermore, healthcare consumers are now able to access hospital performance data on quality measures and patient satisfaction, as well as standard charges for services, to compare competing providers; if any of our hospitals achieve poor results (or results that are lower than our competitors) on quality measures or patient satisfaction surveys, or if our standard charges are or are perceived to be higher than our competitors, we may attract fewer patients. Additional quality measures and trends toward clinical or billing transparency may have an unanticipated impact on our competitive position and patient volumes.
In the future, we expect to encounter increased competition from system-affiliated hospitals and healthcare companies, as well as health insurers and private equity companies seeking to acquire providers, in specific geographic markets. We also face competition from specialty hospitals (some of which are physician-owned) and unaffiliated freestanding outpatient centers for market share in high margin services and for quality physicians and personnel. In recent years, the number of freestanding specialty hospitals, surgery centers, emergency departments, urgent care centers and diagnostic imaging centers in the geographic areas in which we operate has increased significantly. Furthermore, some of the hospitals that compete with our hospitals are owned by government agencies or not-for-profit organizations supported by endowments and charitable contributions and can finance capital expenditures and operations on a tax-exempt basis. If our competitors are better able to attract patients, recruit physicians, expand services or obtain favorable managed care contracts at their facilities than we are, we may experience an overall decline in patient volumes.
Conifer operates in a highly competitive industry, and its current or future competitors may be able to compete more effectively than Conifer does, which could have a material adverse effect on Conifer’s margins, growth rate and market share.
As we explore a sale or other strategic alternatives for Conifer, we are continuing to market Conifer’s revenue cycle management, patient communications and engagement services, and value-based care solutions businesses. The uncertainty regarding our plans for Conifer may have an adverse impact on Conifer’s ability to secure new clients. There can be no assurance that Conifer will be successful in generating new client relationships, including with respect to hospitals we or Conifer’s other clients sell, as the respective buyers of such hospitals may not continue to use Conifer’s services or, if they do, they may not do so under the same contractual terms. The market for Conifer’s solutions is highly competitive, and we expect competition may intensify in the future. Conifer faces competition from existing participants and new entrants to the revenue cycle management market, as well as from the staffs of hospitals and other healthcare providers who handle these processes internally. In addition, electronic medical record software vendors may expand into services offerings that compete with Conifer. To be successful, Conifer must respond more quickly and effectively than its competitors to new or changing opportunities, technologies, standards, regulations and client requirements. Moreover, existing or new competitors may introduce technologies or services that render Conifer’s technologies or services obsolete or less marketable. Even if Conifer’s technologies and services are more effective than the offerings of its competitors, current or potential clients might prefer competitive technologies or services to Conifer’s technologies and services. Furthermore, increased competition has resulted and may continue to result in pricing pressures, which could negatively impact Conifer’s margins, growth rate or market share.
Our level of indebtedness could, among other things, adversely affect our ability to raise additional capital to fund our operations, limit our ability to react to changes in the economy or our industry, and prevent us from meeting our obligations under the agreements relating to our indebtedness.
At December 31, 2018, we had approximately $14.8 billion of total long-term debt, as well as $95 million in standby letters of credit outstanding in the aggregate, under our senior secured revolving credit facility (as amended, “Credit Agreement”) and our letter of credit facility agreement (as amended, “LC Facility”). Our Credit Agreement is collateralized by patient accounts receivable of substantially all of our domestic wholly owned acute care and specialty hospitals, and our LC Facility is guaranteed and secured by a first priority pledge of the capital stock and other ownership interests of certain of our hospital subsidiaries on an equal ranking basis with our existing senior secured notes. From time to time, we expect to engage in additional capital market, bank credit and other financing activities, depending on our needs and financing alternatives available at that time.
The interest expense associated with our indebtedness offsets a substantial portion of our operating income. During 2018, our interest expense was $1.004 billion and represented 61% of our $1.647 billion of operating income. As a result, relatively small percentage changes in our operating income can result in a relatively large percentage change in our net income and earnings per share, both positively and negatively. In addition:
Our substantial indebtedness may limit our ability to adjust to changing market conditions and place us at a competitive disadvantage compared to our competitors that have less debt.
We may be more vulnerable in the event of a deterioration in our business, in the healthcare industry or in the economy generally, or if federal or state governments substantially limit or reduce reimbursement under the Medicare or Medicaid programs.
Our debt service obligations reduce the amount of funds available for our operations, capital expenditures and corporate development activities, and may make it more difficult for us to satisfy our financial obligations.
Our substantial indebtedness could limit our ability to obtain additional financing to fund future capital expenditures, working capital, acquisitions or other needs.
Our significant indebtedness may result in the market value of our stock being more volatile, potentially resulting in larger investment gains or losses for our shareholders, than the market value of the common stock of other companies that have a relatively smaller amount of indebtedness.
A significant portion of our outstanding debt is either subject to early prepayment penalties, such as “make-whole premiums,” or is not currently callable. As a result, it may be costly to pursue debt repayment as a deleveraging strategy.
Furthermore, our Credit Agreement, our LC Facility and the indentures governing our outstanding notes contain, and any future debt obligations may contain, covenants that, among other things, restrict our ability to pay dividends, incur additional debt and sell assets. See “Restrictive covenants in the agreements governing our indebtedness may adversely affect us.”
We may not be able to generate sufficient cash to service all of our indebtedness, and we may be forced to take other actions to satisfy our obligations under our indebtedness, which may not be successful.
Our ability to make scheduled payments on or to refinance our indebtedness depends on our financial and operating performance, which is subject to prevailing economic and competitive conditions and to financial, business and other factors that may be beyond our control. We cannot assure you that we will maintain a level of cash flows from operating activities sufficient to permit us to pay the principal, premium, if any, and interest on our indebtedness.
In addition, our ability to meet our debt service obligations is dependent upon the operating results of our subsidiaries and their ability to pay dividends or make other payments or advances to us. We hold most of our assets at, and conduct substantially all of our operations through, direct and indirect subsidiaries. Moreover, we are dependent on dividends or other intercompany transfers of funds from our subsidiaries to meet our debt service and other obligations, including payment on our outstanding debt. The ability of our subsidiaries to pay dividends or make other payments or advances to us will depend on their operating results and will be subject to applicable laws and restrictions contained in agreements governing the debt of such subsidiaries. Our less than wholly owned subsidiaries may also be subject to restrictions on their ability to distribute cash to us in their financing or other agreements and, as a result, we may not be able to access their cash flows to service their respective debt obligations.
If our cash flows and capital resources are insufficient to fund our debt service obligations, we may be forced to reduce or delay capital expenditures, including those required for operating our existing facilities, for integrating our historical acquisitions or for future corporate development activities, and such reduction or delay could continue for years. We also may be forced to sell assets or operations, seek additional capital, or restructure or refinance our indebtedness. We cannot assure you that we would be able to take any of these actions, that these actions would be successful and permit us to meet our scheduled debt service obligations, or that these actions would be permitted under the terms of our existing or future debt agreements, including our Credit Agreement, our LC Facility and the indentures governing our outstanding notes.
Restrictive covenants in the agreements governing our indebtedness may adversely affect us.
Our Credit Agreement, our LC Facility and the indentures governing our outstanding notes contain various covenants that, among other things, limit our ability and the ability of our subsidiaries to:
incur, assume or guarantee additional indebtedness;
make certain investments;
provide subsidiary guarantees;
consummate asset sales;
redeem debt that is subordinated in right of payment to outstanding indebtedness;
enter into sale and lease-back transactions;
enter into transactions with affiliates; and
consolidate, merge or sell all or substantially all of our assets.
These restrictions are subject to a number of important exceptions and qualifications.
In addition, so long as any obligation or commitment is outstanding under our Credit Agreement and LC Facility, the terms of such facilities require us to maintain a financial ratio relating to our ability to satisfy certain fixed expenses, including interest payments. Our ability to meet these restrictive covenants and financial ratio may be affected by events beyond our
control, and we cannot assure you that we will meet those tests. These restrictions could limit our ability to obtain future financing, make acquisitions or needed capital expenditures, withstand economic downturns in our business or the economy in general, conduct operations or otherwise take advantage of business opportunities that may arise. In addition, a breach of any of these covenants could cause an event of default, which, if not cured or waived, could require us to repay the indebtedness immediately. Under these conditions, we are not certain whether we would have, or be able to obtain, sufficient funds to make accelerated payments.
Despite current indebtedness levels, we may be able to incur substantially more debt or otherwise increase our leverage. This could further exacerbate the risks described above.
We have the ability to incur additional indebtedness in the future, subject to the restrictions contained in our Credit Agreement, our LC Facility and the indentures governing our outstanding notes. We may decide to incur additional secured or unsecured debt in the future to finance our operations and any judgments or settlements or for other business purposes. Similarly, if we continue to sell assets, including the potential divestiture of or other strategic alternative involving Conifer, and do not use the proceeds to repay debt, this could further increase our financial leverage.
Our Credit Agreement provides for revolving loans in an aggregate principal amount of up to $1 billion, with a $300 million subfacility for standby letters of credit. Based on our eligible receivables, $998 million was available for borrowing under the Credit Agreement at December 31, 2018. Our LC Facility provides for the issuance of standby and documentary letters of credit in an aggregate principal amount of up to $180 million (subject to increase to up to $200 million). At December 31, 2018, we had no cash borrowings outstanding under the Credit Agreement, and we had $95 million of standby letters of credit outstanding in the aggregate under the Credit Agreement and the LC Facility. If new indebtedness is added or our leverage increases, the related risks that we now face could intensify.
Our business could be negatively affected by security threats, catastrophic events and other disruptions affecting our information technology and related systems.
Information technology is a critical component of the day-to-day operation of our business. We rely on our information technology to process, transmit and store sensitive and confidential data, including protected health information, personally identifiable information, and our proprietary and confidential business performance data. We utilize electronic health records and other information technology in connection with all of our operations, including our billing and supply chain and labor management operations. Our systems, in turn, interface with and rely on third-party systems. Although we monitor and routinely test our security systems and processes and have a diversified data network that provides redundancies as well as other measures designed to protect the integrity, security and availability of the data we process, transmit and store, the information technology and infrastructure we use have been, and will likely continue to be, subject to computer viruses, attacks by hackers, or breaches due to employee error or malfeasance. Attacks or breaches could impact the integrity, security or availability of data we process, transmit or store, or they could disrupt our information technology systems, devices or businesses. While we are not aware of having experienced a material breach of our systems, the preventive actions we take to reduce the risk of such incidents and protect our information technology may not be sufficient in the future. As cybersecurity threats continue to evolve, we may not be able to anticipate certain attack methods in order to implement effective protective measures, and we will be required to expend significant additional resources to continue to modify and strengthen our security measures, investigate and remediate any vulnerabilities in our information systems and infrastructure, and invest in new technology designed to mitigate security risks. Furthermore, we have an increased risk of security breaches or compromised intellectual property rights as a result of outsourcing certain functions unrelated to direct patient care. Though we have insurance against some cyber-risks and attacks, it may not offset the impact of a material loss event.