Acadiana Business

LHC Group exploring options to boost stock

by Leslie Turk

No doubt hit by cuts to Medicare and faced with the uncertainty of further reductions in reimbursement rates, LHC Group announced this week that it has "engaged in a process to review strategic alternatives" to boost its slumping stock value. One of those options could include exploring a sale of the Lafayette-based company.

A national provider of home health and hospice services, LHC Group announced Wednesday that its board of directors and management are "engaged in a process to review strategic alternatives."
The company says the review process involves an exploration and evaluation of a range of strategic alternatives to enhance stockholder value.

LHC Group (NASDAQ: LHCG) shares closed Tuesday trading at $17.13, down from $15.37 Monday and on the bottom end of a 52-week range of $12.34-$30.64. The shares were up to $17.57 by Wednesday's close but were down to $17.28 in early afternoon trading Thursday.

No timetable for completion of the process has been set, and the company did not disclose what specific options it is exploring. "There can be no assurance that this review process will result in a transaction or strategic alternative of any kind," the company wrote. When a company launches such a review, options can range from share buybacks to a share dividend to an outright sale of the entity.

LHC Group said it would have no further statement on the matter, also stressing that it will not disclose developments or provide updates unless disclosure is appropriate or required.

The company has retained J.P. Morgan Securities as its financial adviser and Alston & Bird as its legal counsel to assist in the review process.

Home health providers like LHC Group have been hit by reductions in Medicare reimbursement rates and for almost two years have battled accusations that they intentionally increase the number of therapy visits to trigger higher reimbursements from Medicare, the federal health insurance program that covers more than 47 million seniors.

In September, LHC Group reached a $65 million settlement agreement with the feds that brought closure to a civil inquiry involving its Medicare reimbursement for home health services from 2006 to 2008. The settlement was reached in conjunction with a lawsuit brought against the home health provider by the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Louisiana. The suit, filed by an individual who worked for a regional consulting firm LHC Group previously used to support the company's quality initiatives, was based on a complaint regarding how LHC Group determined "medical necessity," the legal justification for the coverage of certain medical services.

LHC Group said it cooperated fully with investigators and maintained that the settlement agreement reflected no admission or determination of wrongdoing. Read more here.

In late October, the Senate Finance Committee issued a report describing its findings from an investigation into therapy visits ordered by LHC Group, Amedisys, Gentiva, and Almost Family, four of the largest publicly-traded home health care companies. Read the report here.