We provide post-acute health care services to patients through our home nursing agencies, hospices, and long-term acute care hospitals (“LTACHs”). Through our wholly and majority owned subsidiaries, equity joint ventures and controlled affiliates, we currently operate in Louisiana, Mississippi, Arkansas, Alabama, Texas, Kentucky, Florida, Tennessee, Georgia, Virginia, West Virginia, North Carolina, Ohio, Missouri, Oklahoma, Maryland and Washington. As of December 31, 2008, we owned and operated 206 home nursing agency locations, 19 hospices, two diabetes management companies, three specialty agencies and four private duty agencies. As of December 31, 2008, we managed the operations of four home nursing agencies in which we do not have an ownership interest. Our facility-based services operations as of December 31, 2008, included four long-term acute care hospitals with seven locations, an outpatient rehabilitation clinic, a pharmacy, one medical equipment location and a family health center. We also manage the operations of one inpatient rehabilitation facility in which we have no ownership interest.
We provide home-based post-acute health care services through our home nursing agencies and hospices. Our home nursing locations offer a wide range of services, including skilled nursing, home health aides, medically-oriented social services and physical, occupational and speech therapy. The nurses, home health aides and therapists in our home nursing agencies work closely with patients and their families to design and implement individualized treatments in accordance with a physician-prescribed plan of care. Our hospices provide palliative care to patients with terminal illnesses through interdisciplinary teams of physicians, nurses, home health aides, counselors and volunteers. Of our 238 home-based services locations, 134 are wholly-owned by us, 92 are majority-owned or controlled by us through joint ventures, eight are operated through license lease arrangements and we manage the operations of four home nursing agencies in which we have no ownership interest.
Our long-term acute care hospitals, six of which are located within host hospitals, provide services primarily to patients with complex medical conditions who have transitioned out of a hospital intensive care unit but whose conditions remain too severe for treatment in a non-acute setting. As of December 31, 2008, our hospitals had 156 licensed beds. We provide outpatient rehabilitation services through physical therapists, occupational therapists and speech pathologists at the outpatient rehabilitation clinic which we own. We also provide outpatient rehabilitation services to patients on a contractual basis. In addition, we manage the operations of one inpatient rehabilitation facility in which we have no ownership interest. Of our 12 facility-based services locations in which we maintain an ownership interest, six are wholly-owned by us and six are majority-owned or controlled by us through joint ventures.
Our founders began operations in September 1994 as St. Landry Home Health, Inc. in Palmetto, Louisiana. After several years of expansion, our founders reorganized their business and began operating as Louisiana Healthcare Group, Inc. in June 2000. In March 2001, Louisiana Healthcare Group, Inc. reorganized and became a wholly owned subsidiary of The Healthcare Group, Inc., a Louisiana business corporation. In December 2002, The Healthcare Group, Inc. merged into LHC Group, LLC, a Louisiana limited liability company, with LHC Group, LLC being the surviving entity. In January 2005, LHC Group, LLC established a wholly owned Delaware subsidiary, LHC Group, Inc. On February 9, 2005, LHC Group, LLC merged into LHC Group, Inc., which is a Delaware corporation. Our principal executive offices are located at 420 West Pinhook Road, Suite A, Lafayette, Louisiana, 70503. Our telephone number is (337) 233-1307 and our website is www.lhcgroup.com.
Industry and Market Opportunity
According to the Medicare Payment Advisory Committee (“MedPAC”), an independent federal body established to advise Congress on issues affecting the Medicare program, approximately one-third of all general acute care hospital patients require additional care following their discharge from the hospital. Post-acute care currently comprises approximately 15% of Medicare’s total spending. Some of these patients receive less intensive care in settings such as skilled nursing facilities, outpatient rehabilitation clinics or the home, while others receive continuing care in more intensive care settings such as inpatient rehabilitation facilities or long-term acute care hospitals that are either freestanding or co-located within general acute care facilities. According to MedPAC estimates, Medicare spending totaled $20.2 billion in 2007 for the two primary post-acute sectors in which we operate: home nursing ($15.7 billion) and long-term acute care hospitals ($4.5 billion).
MedPAC estimates that there were approximately 9,801 Medicare-certified home nursing agencies in the United States in 2007, the majority of which are operated by small local or regional providers. MedPAC estimates that in 2007, 67% of freestanding home health agencies were urban, 16% were rural and 17% were mixed. Also, 14% were not-for-profit, 79% were for profit and 7% were government. MedPAC predicts that Medicare spending on home nursing services will increase at an average annual growth rate of 7.4% between 2007 and 2017. Growth is being driven by: a U.S. population that is getting older and living longer; patient preference for less restrictive care settings; incentives for general acute care hospitals to discharge patients into less intensive treatment settings as quickly as medically appropriate; higher incidences of chronic conditions and disease; and a continued movement of institutionalized people into home- and community-based care.
Long-term acute care hospitals provide specialized medical and rehabilitative care to patients with complex medical conditions requiring higher intensity care and monitoring that cannot be provided effectively in other health care settings. These facilities typically serve as an intermediate step between the intensive care unit of a general acute care hospital and a less intensive treatment setting, such as a skilled nursing facility or the home. According to MedPAC estimates, Medicare spending for services provided by long-term acute care hospitals have held steady at $4.5 billion since 2005.
We believe our post-acute service provides valuable alternatives to this underserved, rural patient population. According to the National Institute of Health (“NIH”), rural areas have a higher percentage of residents over the age of 65, who, in 2006, accounted for 18.0% of the total population in rural markets compared to 15.0% in urban markets. Additionally, according to NIH, rural areas typically do not offer the range of post-acute health care services that are available in urban or suburban markets. As such, patients in rural markets face challenges in accessing health care in a convenient and appropriate setting. For example, NIH estimates that although 20% of Americans live in rural areas, less than 9% of the nation’s physicians practice in rural areas. According to NIH, individuals in rural areas may also have difficulty reaching health care facilities due to greater travel time or a lack of public transportation. The economic characteristics and population dispersion of rural markets also make these markets less attractive to health maintenance organizations and other managed care payors. Government studies cited by NIH have shown rural residents also tend to have more health complications than urban residents. Additionally, NIH has noted that residents in rural areas are less likely to use preventive screening services and have a higher prevalence of disabilities, heart disease, cancer, diabetes and other chronic conditions when compared to urban residents.
We believe we are well positioned to build and maintain long-term relationships with local hospitals, physicians and other health care providers and to become the highest quality post-acute provider in our markets. In our experience, because most rural areas have the population size to support only one or two general acute care hospitals, the local hospital often plays a significant role in rural market health care delivery systems. Rural patients who require home nursing frequently receive care from a small home care agency or an agency that, while owned and run by the hospital, is not an area of focus for that hospital. Similarly, patients in these markets who require services typically offered by long-term acute care hospitals are more likely to remain in the community hospital because it is often the only local facility equipped to deal with severe, complex medical conditions. By entering these markets through affiliations with local hospitals, competition for the services we provide is minimal.
Our objective is to become the leading provider of post-acute services to Medicare beneficiaries in the United States. To achieve this objective, we intend to:
Drive internal growth in existing markets. We intend to drive internal growth in our current markets by increasing the number of health care providers in each market from whom we receive referrals and by expanding the breadth of our services. We intend to achieve this growth by: (1) continuing to educate health care providers about the benefits of our services; (2) reinforcing the position of our agencies and facilities as community assets; (3) maintaining our emphasis on high-quality medical care for our patients; and (4) providing a superior work environment for our employees.
Achieve margin improvement through the active management of costs. The majority of our net service revenue is generated under Medicare prospective payment systems (“PPS”) through which we are paid pre-determined rates based upon the clinical condition and severity of the patients in our care. Because our profitability in a fixed payment system depends upon our ability to manage the costs of providing care, we continue to pursue initiatives to improve our margins and net income.
Expand into new markets. We will continue expanding into new markets by developing de novo locations and by acquiring existing Medicare-certified home nursing agencies in attractive markets throughout the United States. We will continue our unique strategy of partnering with non-profit hospitals in home health services as these ventures provide significant return on investment. We will also look to acquire larger freestanding agencies that can serve as growth platforms in markets we do not currently serve in order to support our growth into new states.
Home Nursing. Our registered and licensed practical nurses provide a variety of medically necessary services to homebound patients who are suffering from acute or chronic illness, recovering from injury or surgery, or who otherwise require care, teaching or monitoring. These services include wound care and dressing changes, cardiac rehabilitation, infusion therapy, pain management, pharmaceutical administration, skilled observation and assessment and patient education. We have also designed guidelines to treat chronic diseases and conditions including diabetes, hypertension, arthritis, Alzheimer’s disease, low vision, spinal stenosis, Parkinson’s disease, osteoporosis, complex wound care and chronic pain. Our home health aides provide assistance with activities of daily living such as light housekeeping, simple meal preparation, medication management, bathing and walking. Through our medical social workers we counsel patients and their families with regard to financial, personal and social concerns that arise from a patient’s health-related problems. We provide skilled nursing, ventilator and tracheotomy services, extended care specialties, medication administration and management and patient and family assistance and education. We also provide management services to third-party home nursing agencies, often as an interim solution until proper state and regulatory approvals for an acquisition can be obtained.
Our physical, occupational and speech therapists provide therapy services to patients in their home. Our therapists coordinate multi-disciplinary treatment plans with physicians, nurses and social workers to restore basic mobility skills such as getting out of bed and walking safely with crutches or a walker. As part of the treatment and rehabilitation process, a therapist will stretch and strengthen muscles, test balance and coordination abilities and teach home exercise programs. Our therapists assist patients and their families with improving and maintaining a patient’s ability to perform functional activities of daily living, such as the ability to dress, cook, clean and manage other activities safely in the home environment. Our speech and language therapists provide corrective and rehabilitative treatment to patients who suffer from physical or cognitive deficits or disorders that create difficulty with verbal communication or swallowing.
All of our home nursing agencies offer 24-hour personal emergency response and support services through Philips Lifeline for qualified patients who require close medical monitoring but who want to maintain an independent lifestyle. These services consist principally of a communicator that connects to the telephone line in the subscriber’s home and a personal help button that is worn or carried by the individual subscriber and that, when activated, initiates a telephone call from the subscriber’s communicator to Lifeline’s central monitoring facilities. Lifeline’s trained personnel identify the nature and extent of the subscriber’s particular need and notify the subscriber’s family members, neighbors and/or emergency personnel, as needed. Our use of the Lifeline system increases patient satisfaction and loyalty by providing our patients a point of contact between scheduled nursing visits. As a result, we provide a more complete regimen of care management than our competitors in the markets in which we operate by offering this service to qualified patients as part of their home health plan of care.
Hospice. Our Medicare-certified hospice operations provide a full range of hospice services designed to meet the individual physical, spiritual and psychosocial needs of terminally ill patients and their families. Our hospice services are primarily provided in a patient’s home but can also be provided in a nursing home, assisted living facility or hospital. Key services provided include pain and symptom management accompanied by palliative medication, emotional and spiritual support, spiritual counseling and family bereavement counseling, inpatient and respite care, homemaker services, dietary counseling and social worker visits for up to 13 months after a patient’s death.
Long-term Acute Care Hospitals. Our long-term acute care hospitals treat patients with severe medical conditions who require a high-level of care, frequent monitoring by physicians and other clinical personnel. Patients who receive our services in a long-term acute care hospital are too medically unstable to be treated in a non-acute setting. Examples of these medical conditions include respiratory failure, neuromuscular disorders, cardiac disorders, non-healing wounds, renal disorders, cancer, head and neck injuries and mental disorders. These impairments often are associated with accidents, strokes, heart attacks and other serious medical conditions. We also treat patients diagnosed with musculoskeletal impairments that restrict their ability to perform normal activities of daily living. As part of our facility-based services, we operate an institutional pharmacy, which focuses on providing a full array of institutional pharmacy services to our long-term acute care hospitals and inpatient rehabilitation facility.
Rehabilitation Services. We provide rehabilitation services in multiple settings, including both inpatient and outpatient settings. In our facilities and through our contractual relationships, we provide physical, occupational and speech rehabilitation services. We also provide certain specialized services such as hand therapy or sports performance enhancement to treat sports and work related injuries, musculoskeletal disorders, chronic or acute pain and orthopedic conditions. Our patients are often diagnosed with musculoskeletal impairments that restrict their ability to perform normal activities of daily living. These impairments are often associated with accidents, sports injuries, strokes, heart attacks and other medical conditions. Our rehabilitation services are designed to help these patients minimize physical and cognitive impairments and maximize functional ability. We also design services to prevent short-term disabilities from becoming chronic conditions. Our rehabilitation services are provided by our physical, occupational and respiratory therapists and speech-language pathologists. We also provide management services to one inpatient rehabilitation facility and operate one health and wellness center.
Financial information relating to the home- and facility- based segments is found in the consolidated financial statements of the Company included in this Annual Report on Form 10-K. All of our operations are based in the United States; therefore 100% of our revenues from external customers for the years ended December 31, 2008, 2007 and 2006 and 100% of our long-lived assets were attributed to the United States.
Each of our home nursing agencies is staffed with experienced clinical home health professionals who provide a wide range of patient care services. Our home nursing agencies are managed by a Director of Nursing or Branch Manager who is also a licensed registered nurse. Our Directors of Nursing and Branch Managers are overseen by State Directors who report to Division Vice Presidents. The Senior Vice President of Operations is accountable for the oversight of the Division Vice Presidents and directly reports to the President and Chief Operating Officer of the Company. Our patient care operating model for our home nursing agencies is structured on a base model that requires a Medicare patient minimum census of 50 patients. At the base model level, one registered nurse is responsible for all aspects of the management of each patient’s plan of care. A home nursing agency based on this model is staffed with an office manager, a field-registered nurse, a field-licensed professional nurse and a home health aide. We also employ and/or contract with local community therapists and other clinicians, as appropriate, to provide additional required services.