CHICAGO -- Moody's Investors Service downgraded more health-care revenue bond ratings in the second quarter than it upgraded. reversing the trend of the previous two quarters.
The rating agency said in a report issued on Tuesday that it assigned eight downgrades, affecting $287.9 million of debt, and six upgrades, affecting $294.5 million of debt. Five of the downgrades were on New Jersey hospitals.
In contrast, the rating agency assigned a total of 11 upgrades and two downgrades in the fourth quarter of 1992 and the first quarter of 1993.
So far this year, Moody's has upgraded 12 health-care ratings, downgraded eight, and affirmed or gave initial ratings to 141 other credits.
Moody's this week also reported on municipal ratings for the year's first half. (See article, page 2)
John Goetz, vice president and assistant director of health-care finance at Moody's, said the second quarter results re-establish a generally negative credit trend of the last few years.
He said that downgrades have surpassed upgrades in recent years for various reasons, including over-capacity, increased competition in many markets, and reduced government and private reimbursements to many health-care facilities.
"Clearly, the general trend has been downward for credits in the hospital industry. There have been many more downgrades than up grades in the last five years," Goetz said. Moody's expects downgrades to lessen but to still outnumber upgrades, he said.
In addition to the rating changes, Moody's in the second quarter confirmed or gave initial ratings to 89 credits, affecting a total of $5.2 billion of debt. The 89 ratings included Aaa-insured ratings on 39 health-care bond issues totaling $1.7 billion of debt.
Moody's downgraded bond ratings in the second quarter for Morehead Memorial Hospital in Eden, N.C., to Baa from Baal; Summa Health System in Akron, Ohio, to A from Al: Columbus Hospital in Newark, N.J., to Ba1 from Baa; Elizabeth General Medical Center in Elizabeth, N.J., to Baal from A; Palisades General Hospital in North Bergen, N.J., to Ba from Baal; Princeton Medical Center in Princeton, N.J., to A from A1; Zurbrugg Memorial Hospital in Willingboro, N.J., to Baa from Baa1; and Marcus J. Lawrence Medical Center in Cottonwood, Ariz., to Baa from Baal.
Goetz said that changes in New Jersey's Medicaid reimbursement system explain the relatively high number of downgrades in that state.
The rating agency upgraded bond ratings for North Mississippi Health Services in Tupelo, Miss., to Aa from A1; University of Alabama at Birmingham Hospital to Aa from A1; Clarksville Memorial Hospital in Clarksville, Tenn., to Baal from Baa; Jersey Shore Medical Center in Neptune, N.J., to Baal from Baa; Washoe Medical Center in Reno, Nev., to A from Baal; and Blessing Hospital in Quincy, Ill., to A from Baa1.
There was no one underlying reason for the different upgrades, Goetz said.