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Hospital mergers continue upward trend in 3rd quarter


The number of deals surpassed the transactions seen in the past two years, according to Kaufman Hall.

Hospital merger activity in the third quarter was more brisk than in the past two years, according to Kaufman Hall. (Image: ©Ngampol - stock.adobe.com)

Hospital merger activity in the third quarter was more brisk than in the past two years, according to Kaufman Hall. (Image: ©Ngampol - stock.adobe.com)

Hospital analysts projected that there would be more mergers and acquisitions in 2023, and the predictions are proving to be accurate.

In the third quarter, there were 18 announced hospital mergers, according to a report from Kaufman Hall, a healthcare consulting company. By comparison, there were 10 deals in the third quarter of 2022 and seven transactions in the third quarter of 2021.

Through the first three quarters of 2023, there have been 53 announced hospital mergers, according to data from Kaufman Hall. That already equals the 53 hospital mergers reported in all of 2022. There were 49 hospital deals in 2021.

Hospital merger activity slowed during the COVID-19 pandemic, as health systems were more focused on dealing with the unprecedented crisis than in pursuing deals. However, merger activity has been picking up this year, and analysts expect to see more deals in the months ahead.

Analysts project more hospitals may be pursuing partners due to financial needs. More than half of all hospitals had negative margins in 2022. Hospitals are seeing some modest gains in 2023, but some analysts expect weak margins to continue into 2024.

So far, nonprofit hospital operating margins have been around 1%, while margins of 3% are generally considered necessary for long-term financial strength, Kaufman Hall reported.

Anu Singh, managing director and leader of partnerships, told Chief Healthcare Executive® in a July interview that more hospital deals are likely.

“Whether it’s strategic in nature for accessing the capabilities, or whether it's financial in nature, because of viability, and all points in between those two extremes, that all leads to the logical conclusion, there's going to be more transaction and partnership activity going forward,” Singh said.

Transactions among nonprofit organizations accounted for 14 of the 18 deals in the third quarter, and 10 of the deals involved academic health systems, Kaufman Hall said.

The total revenue in the third quarter transactions was $8.2 billion, which is higher than the typical figures in the third quarter of previous years. The transacted revenue is down from the $13.3 billion of the second quarter of 2023.

The average deal of the smaller party, or seller, was $453 million in average revenue. That is above historical year-end averages before the pandemic. From 2015 through 2020, year-end averages ranged from a low of $272 million in 2019 to $409 million in 2018.

In July, Tampa General Hospital announced it was planning to acquire three Florida hospitals from Community Health Systems. Aspirus Health in Wisconsin said in July it is intending to acquire St. Luke’s in Duluth, Minn.

Several major deals have been announced this year, including Kaiser Permanente’s plans to acquire Geisinger Health, the Pennsylvania system. BJC HealthCare of St. Louis and Saint Luke’s Health System of Kansas City announced May 31 that they plan to merge and form an integrated academic health system.

Two Wisconsin-based systems, Froedtert Health and ThedaCare, announced another key step in their merger plans, with their boards signing off on their consolidation. Essentia Health, based in Minnesota, and the Marshfield Clinic Health System, based in Wisconsin, announced in July that they’ve agreed to come together and hope to complete that merger by the end of the year.

One potentially big deal is not coming together. UnityPoint Health and Presbyterian Healthcare Services said last week that they have dropped their merger plans.

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