MaineHealth, the state’s largest health care system, has retained its A+ bond rating despite financial challenges associated with the coronavirus pandemic.

Ratings agencies S&P Global Ratings and Moody’s Investors Service each endorsed MaineHealth with strong credit ratings last week despite the toll that COVID-19 has taken on the health care system in 2020, MaineHealth said in a news release.

MaineHealth’s Maine Medical Center in Portland Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

On Wednesday, S&P reaffirmed its A+ rating for existing bonds, as well as for the organization as an issuer of new bonds. On Friday, Moody’s offered a similar opinion of MaineHealth’s creditworthiness, reaffirming its rating of A1-stable.

Because of the impact of COVID-19 on the hospital system’s finances, S&P did change its outlook rating from “positive” to “stable,” noting that “revenue pressure and market volatility stemming from COVID-19 has dampened financial performance” in the current fiscal year. This revised outlook, however, is stronger than S&P’s overall “negative” outlook for the entire health care industry.

“Obviously, the last four months have been challenging,” said Al Swallow, MaineHealth’s chief financial officer, in a prepared statement. “These reports affirm our belief, however, that we remain well positioned to support our patients, care team members and our communities in the years ahead.”

Earlier this year, MaineHealth, which consists of nine local health systems in Maine and Carroll County, N.H., said it expected lost revenues related to the coronavirus pandemic to be around $400 million for the 2020 calendar year, assuming that there is not a dramatic increase in infections in its service areas.

MaineHealth has received roughly $110 million from the government in pandemic relief funds and hopes it is eligible for about $40 million more, but that still leaves it with expected coronavirus-related revenue losses of roughly $250 million for the year.

Fortunately, as noted in the credit rating reports, MaineHealth said it entered the crisis in strong financial shape, and it is expected that the system will return to financial health once the pandemic has passed. Already, MaineHealth has started to bring back services that were idled in March as part of its pandemic planning, putting in place extensive safety protocols on behalf of its staff and patients.

Because of its financial strength, MaineHealth said it has committed to maintaining the jobs and pay of its employees through the current fiscal year, even for those employees who had been furloughed following the earlier cancellation of elective and non-urgent procedures. Going forward, MaineHealth has said it will continue to prioritize its staff as it works through the crisis.

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