Operating margins for the nation's strongest not-for-profit healthcare systems last year reached their highest levels since 1997, while weaker hospitals saw worse results, according to Standard & Poor's median financial indicators. The ratings agency said its figures further show a growing gap between the "haves and have-nots" in not-for-profit healthcare. AA-rated hospitals had a median operating margin of 3.1%, up from 2.2% in 2002, while A-rated hospitals posted a median margin of 3.5%, up from 2.8%. The BBB median fell to 1.2% from 1.4%, and the median across all speculative credits slipped to -1.3% from -0.9%. The median total margin for AA credits grew to 4.5% from 2.4% because of stock market gains, while total margins for other ratings categories showed little or no change. In a separate report, S&P said it doesn't expect operational improvements to continue at hospitals because of cost pressures, tightening revenue, declining insurance coverage and other factors. -- by Mary Chris Jaklevic
Among not-for-profits, the strong get stronger
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