Healthcare CFOs not in a Pollyanna frame of mind

Healthcare CFOs are in a bad mood compared to their counterparts in other industries, according to a national survey of CFOs and senior controllers by Grant Thornton LLP in Chicago. Only 24 percent of healthcare CFOs expect their organization's financial prospects to improve within the next six months. That compares to 52 percent for all respondents.

Healthcare CFOs were more in line with their brethren when looking outside their facility doors: 41 percent believe that the U.S. economy will improve over the next six months compared to 44 percent overall. However, only 16 percent of healthcare CFOs think the recession will end this year (vs. 28 percent overall). In addition 23 percent of healthcare CFOs describe themselves as "more worried" than they were a year ago about whether their organizations can continue as a going concern. By comparison, 12 percent of CFOs nationally use that description.

These results aren't surprising given the uncertainties about how health reform will unfold over the next few years, says Anne McGeorge, Grant Thornton's national managing partner of the Health Care group.

While most healthcare CFOs--like CFOs across all industries--plan to maintain or reduce average per-employee benefits and compensation costs, healthcare CFOs actually have more positive news to report than other CFOs when they plan increases in salaries (19 percent vs. 15 percent), healthcare benefits (14 percent vs. 6 percent), life insurance benefits (8 percent vs. 2 percent) and 401(k) matches (6 percent vs. 5 percent). However, healthcare CFOs lag behind in planned increases in bonuses (3 percent vs. 8 percent), disability benefits (0 percent vs. 2 percent), and stock options/other equity compensation (0 percent vs. 5 percent).

The Grant Thornton survey results are consistent with another recent survey. The current recession has had a bigger negative impact on healthcare providers' balance sheets than the 2001 recession, according to three out of four respondents in a TransUnion healthcare survey of 46 healthcare organizations. In addition, 96 percent of respondents report that their organizations have seen an increase in uninsured or underinsured patients, and more than 41 percent believe that this growth is the most important issue facing their organizations.

To learn more:
- view the Grant Thornton survey results
- take a look at the TransUnion survey results