Amedisys Inc. (Nasdaq: AMED) announced Monday that Chairman and CEO Paul Kusserow will retire as CEO on April 15.
Kusserow joined Amedisys – one of the largest home health and hospice providers in the nation – in 2014, a time when the company was faltering and its executives were calling for change. Kusserow helped turn the company around in fairly short order by jump-starting its dealmaking engine, improving its internal retention rates and bringing its quality scores to the top of the industry.
“Since Paul took over, the organization is better in nearly every way,” Rich Lechleiter, lead independent director, said in a statement. “On behalf of the board of directors, I want to sincerely thank him for his efforts and continued leadership.”
Upon his retirement as CEO, Kusserow will continue to serve as chairman of the board for Amedisys. Chris Gerard – who currently serves as president and COO – will assume the role of president and CEO moving forward.
The succession planning process began in early 2021, Amedisys noted.
Having the opportunity to be part of and lead Amedisys for the past seven years “has genuinely been the highlight of my career,” Kusserow explained.
“Seeing what we have built since 2014, the talent we have developed, the patients we have cared for and the quality care we have focused on and delivered has been simply astonishing,” he said. “Though there is so much to be proud of, I am especially proud of the team we have assembled across the organization, which is why I am so confident in a seamless transition to Chris.”
The Baton Rouge, Louisiana-based Amedisys delivers home health, hospice and personal care services across 529 care centers in 38 states and the District of Columbia. It has additionally begun offering more forms of higher-acuity care in the home, partly thanks to its $250 million acquisition of Contessa Health last year.
No easy task
Taking over the helm for Amedisys will be no easy task for Gerard, considering the ongoing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and the difficult labor environment with seemingly no relief in sight.
The current COO will likewise have to continue the integration efforts of Contessa and carry on Kusserow’s objective of “taking home health to new places.”
At the same time, Gerard will need to figure out how to pull Amedisys out of the industry-wide slump that has depressed all companies’ stock prices in recent months. In February 2021, Amedisys stock was trading over $300 per share. As of Monday morning, it was trading at $144.06 per share.
Amedisys believes Gerard will rise to the occasion, however. The executive joined the company in 2017 and is intimately familiar with its operations and strategic strengths.
“Paul will leave very big shoes to fill, and I look forward to officially taking the reins from him and tackling the headwinds and many opportunities before Amedisys in 2022,” Gerard said. “Our organization is uniquely positioned in the market, and I am excited about the significant growth opportunities in front of us and our ability to execute on them. It’s a great time to be at Amedisys.”
Prior to joining Amedisys, Gerard was co-founder, president and CEO of IntegraCare Home Health, where he built a single home health startup location into 54 branches, generating $71 million in annual revenues.
He sold that company to Kindred Healthcare in 2012, transitioning to the role of vice president of the South Central region for the Kindred at Home division. Gerard was later promoted to COO of Kindred at Home.
Most recently, he served as president for the South Central region of Kindred at Home, with responsibility for day-to-day operations, including the integration of the Gentiva Home Health acquisition within his region.
“I’ve had the privilege of working with Chris over the last five years, and have seen the value and insights he brings,” Kusserow continued. “[I] am excited to see what he will do as CEO. I look forward to continuing to serve Chris and the company as chairman of the board.”
About a year before joining Amedisys, Kusserow was leaving Humana Inc. (NYSE: HUM) to start a complex care management company in California. As he was getting that started, the Amedisys board asked him to come in and take a look at the provider’s strategy.
Kusserow and some of his close colleagues went on to deliver a report analyzing Amedisys’ strategy and highlighting what it needed to do to turn the business around.
“Then I walked out the door, went back to California and started building this care management company,” Kusserow told Home Health Care News in a 2020 Changemakers interview. “They called me back and said, ‘Hey, would you be interested in coming in and possibly being the CEO of Amedisys?’”
One of Kusserow’s early efforts as CEO included breaking away from the “hub-and-spoke” leadership model Amedisys had previously used while also bringing in more C-suite talent. Early efforts also included traveling around the country to get back in touch with the home health market.
“So the odd thing I did when I first showed up was that I left for about three months,” Kusserow said in the HHCN interview. “I was rarely seen. I went out and I did thousands of interviews with our employees and caregivers. I visited, I think, 20-something states. I don’t know how many care centers exactly, but it was a lot.”
These and other initiatives, including the use of predictive analytics, have helped Amedisys bring its voluntary turnover rates to about 18%.
Other accomplishments during Kusserow’s time as CEO include dramatically growing the company’s hospice segment, both through organic growth and via major acquisitions. Amedisys acquired Compassionate Care Hospice for $340 million in 2018, for example, as well as AseraCare Hospice for $235 million in 2020.
Overall, Amedisys has grown the hospice business from a census of 4,600 to over 13,000, while increasing the number of care centers from 80 to 177.
“If we do what our patients need, what our referral sources need and what our front-line employees need, we’ll always be fine,” Kusserow told HHCN. “I think we’ll always lead and thrive as a company.”
Additionally, during his time as CEO, Kusserow helped Amedisys grow its market cap from $900 million to over $5.3 billion while growing revenue by over 74%.
“Of all that he has accomplished, building out the executive team may be one of his most impressive achievements and one that I know he is most proud of,” Lechleiter added. “The depth of talent is second to none and the way in which he and Chris have worked together to lead this company since Chris joined in 2017 will make for a seamless transition.”