Shares of AAC Holdings fell about 8 percent on Tuesday — pushing the company’s market capitalization below $40 million — in the first trading session of the addiction treatment company’s leaders sketched out a 2030 vision.
AAC Chairman and CEO Michael Cartwright and CFO Andrew McWilliams on Monday afternoon hosted a conference call that promised to outline the future of the Brentwood-based company that last year rang up nearly $300 million in revenues but lost $60 million as both operating and interest expenses jumped. For part of their roughly 40-minute presentation, they did that — outlining a more consumer-oriented business that capitalized on its diagnostic and genetic testing capacities while potentially pivoting to subscription-based models focused less on pharmaceutical treatments and more broadly on brain health — but Cartwright repeatedly and energetically returned to the role of insurance companies in today’s health care system.
“They’ve been completely irrational,” Cartwright said about the carriers’ payment models. “I love it when they say they want to partner with you. That means they want to partner with you if you can deliver services more cheaply.”
Saying that the entire addiction treatment is in distress in part because providers aren’t being adequately compensated for their services, Cartwright said he envisions more employers contracting directly with providers to circumvent insurance companies while adopting more technology and new treatments. He rhetorically asked why insurers don’t pay more for genetic testing, brain scans and telemedicine when, he said, they are tools to improve the quality of care for many patients.
“If we were doing personalized medicine, this is where you would start,” he added.
The analysts who asked questions following Cartwright’s and McWilliams’ prepared remarks didn’t take the bait, though, and were more focused on the financials of the company, which last month disclosed to investors that its losses have raised substantial doubt about its ability to continue as a going concern. Their questions focused on the potential to raise money by selling real estate — the session also featured Cartwright repeatedly questioning why investors don’t agree with his team’s $400 million valuation of AAC’s real estate — and on near-term plans to increase operating profits by boosting AAC’s census, which was hurt badly last year by a change in Google’s addiction-related search algorithms.
McWilliams expressed confidence AAC’s results will improve from the first quarter thanks to improvements in the types and location of patients brought on as well as a drop in the deductibles they will be required to pay versus early this year.
“There are lots of ways to skin the cat,” Cartwright said. “We have lots of time and multiple levers to pull […] We know we have to get our EBITDA up.”
Equity investors don’t appear convinced. On a day when the overall market was on track to rise more than 1 percent, AAC (Ticker: AAC) was down 7.8 percent to $1.54 and changing hands near its session lows heading into the last hour of trading. A year ago, the shares were worth nearly $12 each.