The year 2020 is one for the history books from the start of a global pandemic, COVID-19 shutdowns of “non-essential” businesses to a rise in telemedicine fraud schemes. Join Board certified healthcare attorney Jeff Cohen for insight on 2021 healthcare business preparation topics and lessons from 2020.
The trend that we are seeing affects both buyers and sellers in the health care sector with respect to entities that have received cash infusions from the Paycheck Protection Program (“PPP”) created pursuant to the CARES Act in response to COVID-19. Mergers and acquisitions can come to a significant slowdown, standstill or be terminated altogether if careful planning is not performed to account for the impact the PPP funds received by a healthcare target or seller will have on an anticipated merger or acquisition. While tax and legal considerations have typically followed along with the merger or acquisition and these considerations are important aspects of any merger or acquisition, they have taken a forefront position when it comes to planning for a change of ownership when the healthcare target or seller has received PPP funds.
As we learned earlier, health care entities requested and received PPP funds to sustain them during the public health emergency caused by COVID-19, allowing them to avoid a virtual economic shut-down. These funds were a welcome relief to keep health care entities afloat financially, providing a way to cover certain expenses such as a) payroll costs, b) rent, c) interest on any covered mortgage obligation (which shall not include any prepayment of or payment of principal on a covered mortgage obligation), and d) utilities. Using the PPP funds on these expenses allows for a recipient of the PPP funds to qualify for loan forgiveness under the PPP. That all seemed like welcome relief at the time.
Private money (e.g. private equity) is in full swing purchasing medical practices with large profit margins (e.g. dermatology). This is NOT the same thing as when physician practice management companies (PPMCs) bought practices the 90s. Back then, the stimulus for the seller was (a) uncertainty re practice profits in the future, and (b) the stock price. Selling practices got some or all of the purchase price in stock, with the hopes the purchasing company stock would far exceed the multiplier applied to practice “earnings” (the “multiple”). Buyers promised to stabilize and even enhance revenues with better management and better payer contracting. If the optimism of the acquiring company and selling doctors was on target, everyone won because the large stock price made money for both the buyer and seller. The private equity “play” today is a little different.
Today’s sellers are approaching the private equity opportunity the same way they did with PPMCs, except for the stock focus since most private equity purchases don’t involve selling doctors obtaining stock. Sellers hope their current practice earnings will equate to a large “purchase price.” And they hope the buyer have better front and back office management that will result in more stable and even enhanced earnings. And for this, the private equity buyer takes a “management fee,” which they typically promise (though not in writing) to offset with enhanced practice earnings.
Health law is the federal, state, and local law, rules, regulations and other jurisprudence among providers, payers and vendors to the healthcare industry and its patient and delivery of health care services; all with an emphasis on operations, regulatory and transactional legal issues.