During the peak of the coronavirus outbreak, LHC Group Inc. (Nasdaq: LHCG) executives were working seven days a week at the company’s Lafayette, Louisiana-based headquarters, practicing social distancing and running a workforce that was largely operating from home.
Similar to other home health providers, LHC Group faced declining visits and general uncertainty during the first couple months of the COVID-19 crisis. But as its admissions now return to pre-COVID-19 levels, the company is very bullish on its future organic growth opportunities and the long-term outlook for the home health industry overall.
“With some of the disruptors that were happening. I think, not only does the pie get larger for home health and the industry, but the high-quality providers within the space — their size of the pie gets larger,” LHC Group CFO Josh Proffitt said during a Jefferies 2020 Healthcare Conference presentation Tuesday. “So that gives me a lot of bullishness. … If we have been in high single-digit organic growth experience as an organization, you can easily see a pathway to be greater than that for a multi-year run.”
LHC Group is a home health, hospice and personal care services provider that operates in 35 states.
Using fee-for-service Medicare data from 2017, Chief Strategy and Innovation Officer Bruce Greenstein pointed out that patients with an acute care hospitalization relied on home health afterward 21% of the time — and skilled nursing facilities (SNFs) 19% of the time.
Over 40% of all COVID-19 deaths have occured from the nursing home population, which represents just 0.6% of the U.S. population. Because of that, LHC Group executives are convinced that home health will take a larger percentage of that population moving forward.
Newly released federal statistics show nearly 26,000 people have died from COVID-19 in nursing homes through May.
“[That’s going to change] the psyche of the way people are going to view SNFs and long-term care facilities for the rest of our generation,” Greenstein said in the virtual conference. “That number is just breathtaking. You cannot unlearn this. It’s going to change the way we think about it. You would never want to put your parent in a facility if you don’t have to. You want options now.”
LHC Group — a fully integrated in-home care enterprise with a range of services — is confident that it is one of organizations best-suited to take on these patients moving forward.
In addition to its diverse operations and ability to care for patients longitudinally, LHC Group may also see tailwinds due to its numerous joint ventures with hospitals and health systems.
“Our hospital partners asked us to create a program that allows them to divert patients to home health rather than send them to SNFs, so we set that up and it’s been working beautifully,” Greenstein said.
Patients that would’ve usually gone to SNFs as opposed to home health tend to be more complex, but LHC Group believes home health is still able to care for these patients relatively seamlessly.
“We’re taking patients that otherwise would’ve gone to SNFs,” Greenstein said. “What we’ve learned is, they’re completely in our wheelhouse. They’re more complex and they’re taxing to our process and our clinicians, but they are what our clinicians are trained for. And really interestingly, PDGM pays appropriately for them.”