Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services (S&P) has upgraded Freeman Health System’s standard long-term bond rating from “A-“ to “A.” In receiving the upgrade, the hospital bucks a national trend in which other healthcare institutions are experiencing ratings downgrades.
“Our board of directors and executive management set a goal to continue to achieve the highest rating,” said Paula F. Baker, Freeman President and Chief Executive Officer. “We are excited and pleased to say we accomplished that goal at a time in which, nationally, downgrades of bond ratings for hospitals have exceeded upgrades during the past few years.”
S&P analysts cited the following as justifications for the upgrade:
- Sound business position and market share
- Impressively stable operating profile
- Low debt levels
- Strong leadership and governance
“This prestigious upgrade is a direct reflection of the operational partnerships between the board of directors, management, medical staff and every employee of the system, all of which have made a concerted effort to constantly focus on quality and safety patient care initiatives,” said Baker. “One of the many rewards for providing world-class healthcare close to home is financial success and recognition as an “A” rated organization.”
The uncertain future of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), Medicare and Medicaid is making bond rating agencies anxious. Healthcare has never been more complicated than it is now in large part because of the potential radical change with the repeal of the ACA and major overhauls to Medicare and Medicaid. Health systems continue to do better than stand-alone hospitals.
“We are thrilled to obtain this news from Standard & Poor’s,” said Steve Graddy, Freeman Chief Financial Officer. “Such an upgrade is indicative of the stability of our market and Freeman’s place within it.”
S&P analysts also cited Freeman’s strong enterprise profile that is characterized by being the market share leader within the hospital’s two-county primary service area, as well as its expanding regional presence and strong employed physician base who are well-integrated into the system.
Further, under current leadership, Freeman has focused on expanding relationships with its physician base, as well as organizations within the community – such as school districts, universities and smaller providers. Freeman’s expansion outside its primary service area has pulled new patients to Joplin.
From a profitability perspective, the past four fiscal years have been the strongest in Freeman’s history. Freeman’s growing regional presence, expansion of profitable service lines and prudent expense management have helped maintain robust operations. Given Freeman’s conservative financial practices and strong track record, a positive future is expected.
About Freeman Health System
Locally owned, not-for-profit and nationally recognized, Freeman Health System includes Freeman Hospital West, Freeman Hospital East, Freeman Neosho Hospital and Ozark Center – the area’s largest provider of behavioral health services – as well as two urgent care clinics, dozens of physician clinics and a variety of specialty services. In 2018, Freeman earned dozens of individual awards for medical excellence and patient safety from CareChex®, a quality rating system that helps consumers evaluate healthcare providers. The Leapfrog Group awarded Freeman the highest grade possible in the Fall 2017 Hospital Patient Safety Score. With more than 300 physicians on staff representing more than 70 specialties, Freeman provides cancer care, heart care, neurology and neurosurgery, orthopaedics, children’s services and women’s services. Additionally, Freeman is the only Children’s Miracle Network Hospital in a 70-mile radius. For more information, visit freemanhealth.com.