United States: Blessings In Disguise: Hidden Opportunities In Healthcare Bankruptcies

Perhaps one thing we can agree on in discussing the healthcare industry:  it is in a state of distress stemming from the challenges created by an ever-increasing regulatory burden, changes in reimbursement rates, uncertainty with the Affordable Care Act, mounting tort and employment litigation.  The recent rampant growth of urgent care centers and retail clinics as well as technological advances and telemedicine have created a change in the manner in which healthcare services are delivered and consequently put pressure on providers to compete.

If bankruptcies are any indication, here is a simple comparison: 1.13% of all bankruptcy cases in 2010 were healthcare-related versus 9.7% for just three quarters of 2018.  It seems that no facet has been spared — hospitals (large, small, rural), physicians and dentists, skilled nursing, senior living, pharmaceutical distributors, home health, diagnostic labs, behavioral health, durable medical equipment suppliers—all have or will undoubtedly be affected.

Enough doom and gloom.  How can healthcare entities achieve sustainability and maximize opportunities in this challenging and changing environment?  The answer is in exploring options and taking advantage of business strategies.  One of the most important business tools in today's world is bankruptcy.

In years past, the bankruptcy option was tagged as the remedy of last resort. But, now, bankruptcy means opportunity.  Today's health care playing field consists of a myriad of scenarios and combinations:  for example:   i) small hospitals are capital constrained; ii) big hospitals want to become small; iii) physicians want to be employees; iv) physician groups want to grow in specialty spaces. A bankruptcy can provide the necessary forum and mechanisms to resolve structure and legacy issues, solve capital requirements, enhance financial stability and maximize value.

From any perspective, bankruptcy is not a badge of financial distress, but rather a business tool to use in revitalizing, restructuring, and accomplishing the goals management foresees or needs to anticipate. This may include effectuating a merger, a sale/purchase of assets or equity, a way to deal with regulatory issues and cumbersome leases or contracts, or what might be a straight-up restructure of debt and equity with new capital. In any case, the bankruptcy process can provide a safe haven from which a company can emerge with a clean balance sheet – the proverbial clean bill of health.

Whether your organization is doing well, or underperforming, there are significant opportunities in this uncertain time. Assembling a team of skilled legal, accounting and operational advisors will be necessary to surviving and thriving in the changing healthcare industry. Whether you are concerned about your organization's financial sustainability, or are seeking opportunities to expand operations through acquisition of distressed entities, now is the time to develop strategies to maximize your organization's goals.

For the unprepared, the mantra from the television series Game of Thrones, "winter is coming" may apply.  But, planning for the change is planning for success.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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