S&P, Moody’s Sustain Northern Light Health’s Bond Ratings
Two credit rating agencies have affirmed the improved financial and operational positions of Northern Light Health, as the state’s largest healthcare system undergoes significant transformation of its infrastructure, technology platforms, and business operations.
Standard and Poor’s (S&P) Global Ratings affirmed its 'BBB' long-term rating for Northern Light Health in May, while Moody’s Investor’s Service (Moody’s) affirmed its rating of Ba1 this week. The agencies held consistent with the system’s previous year’s ratings, which both included a negative outlook.
While the agencies referred to uncertainty about Northern Light Health’s ability to reverse a trend of weak earnings and budget performance, S&P noted the system’s relatively stable balance sheet is expected to remain consistent with rating level expectations. Moody’s rationale for their rating cited Northern Light’s significant turnaround initiatives, greater rigor and discipline around budgeting, and constrained capital spending, all of which will improve operating margins and protect liquidity in the future.
Northern Light Health’s senior vice president and chief financial officer, Tony Filer, understood the rationale of these rating decisions and acknowledged that the health delivery system has more hard work ahead to reach its goals. “In the past, our operating results have been below expectation. However, the turnaround plans in place—which include onsite support via a systemwide consulting engagement—give the rating agencies more assurance that we will successfully build an infrastructure for sustainability and future efforts.”
Nearly one year ago, Northern Light Health embarked on a proactive, four-pronged, systemwide transformation initiative, which included building an enterprise-wide electronic health records system, upgrades to key business platforms, optimization of real estate space and healthcare facilities, and designing system improvements that will revolutionize the way we provide care to patients.
Filer explained, “These continue to be challenging times for healthcare providers. We have an obligation to invest in our people and infrastructure, to rethink how we operate and deliver quality healthcare. We are just now beginning to see these investments and redesigns generating improvements that need to be sustainable—we’re seeing encouraging results.”
Northern Light Health president and CEO, M. Michelle Hood, FACHE commented, “We employ bright, hardworking people throughout the state who care deeply about our patients. With their expertise and a solid plan in place, we remain confident in the system’s ability to deliver the care our communities deserve for generations to come.”