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Moody's: Nonprofit Healthcare Downgrades Continue to Outpace Upgrades

Les Masterson, for HealthLeaders Media, February 17, 2010

As yet another indication that 2009 was a horrible year for nearly all aspects of the economy, Moody's Investors Service reported today that the year featured "high downgrade activity" in the not-for-profit healthcare sector.

In fact, Moody's reported 54 downgrades compared to 21 upgrades in 2009, which contrasts to 53 downgrades and 27 upgrades the previous year. In other words, the downgrade-to-upgrade ratio increased from a 2 to 1 ratio in 2008 to a 2.6 to 1 ratio in 2009, said Moody's.

The past two years are part of a four-year trend in which downgrades have exceeded upgrades. Though the past four years have been difficult, they are a far cry from the 4.6 to 1 downgrade-upgrade ratio in 2000. Last year was the highest ratio since 2000, said Moody's.

A positive is that the downgrade activity began to wane in the second half of 2009. The downgrade trend went from 6.8 to 1 in the fourth quarter of 2008 and 4 to 1 in the first half of 2009 to 1.7 to 1 in the second half of 2009.

"Despite operating challenges facing most not-for-profit hospitals and healthcare systems and weakening of credit measures across all major ratios and rating categories, rating affirmations still accounted for nearly 79% of all rating actions, continuing a long-standing historical trend in which affirmations dwarf both downgrades and upgrades," said Moody's Associate Analyst Deepa Patel, author of the report "Moody's Not-For-Profit Healthcare 2009 Year-End Rating Activity."

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