Median ratios for U.S. not-for-profit health care systems and stand-alone hospitals were stable in fiscal 2011, Standard & Poor's Rating Services said Monday in two reports.

The median trends highlight management's continued focus on improving the balance sheet and, to the extent possible, the income statement, to increase their flexibility in preparation for expected changes in health care delivery and financing in the next few years. However, the ratios may have peaked and could decline slightly in 2012 and in 2013 as industry pressures grow, according to Standard & Poor's.

"In fact, the first half of 2012 has been somewhat difficult for many providers, with various factors pressuring results, including declining inpatient volumes, increased expenditures related to health reform readiness such as information technology, and the continued escalation of physician employment," Standard & Poor's said.

For more information on the median ratios reports, see "U.S. Not-For-Profit Health Care System Ratios: Stability In Fiscal 2011 Gives Providers A Firm Foundation To Face Industry Changes," and "U.S. Not-For-Profit Stand-Alone Hospital Ratios: Providers Confront A Difficult Road After A Stable Ride In 2011".

Median ratios offer a snapshot of the financial position of all rated providers and help in credit comparisons across rating categories. In addition, tracking median ratios over time allows for a clearer understanding of industrywide trends and provides a tool to better assess the sector's future credit quality.

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