LifePoint Hospitals, Brentwood, Tenn., said its profits and profit margin rose in the first quarter, as a 5.5% increase in same-hospital equivalent admissions and successful cost controls in other areas compensated for growing bad-debt expense. LifePoint said it earned $23.9 million, or 60 cents per share, for the quarter ended March 31, compared with $17.7 million, or 45 cents per share, in the year-ago quarter. Revenue was up 16.2% to $256.6 million. Bad-debt expense rose to $23 million, or 8.9% of revenue, from $17.5 million, or 7.9% of revenue. Investor-owned companies that are more urban-oriented, such as HCA, Tenet Healthcare Corp. and Triad Hospitals, have reported 10% or greater bad-debt expense. LifePoint owns or operates 29 hospitals.
Meanwhile, Anthem saw first-quarter earnings jump 54% to $295.6 million, or $2.08 per share, on a 9% year-over-year increase in membership and one-time gains. The Indianapolis-based operator of Blue Cross and Blue Shield plans earned $191.7 million, or $1.36 per share, in the 2003 quarter. Anthem boosted its 2004 per-share earnings outlook to between $6.90 and $7 from an earlier forecast of $6.15 to $6.25. First-quarter revenue rose 11% to $4.5 billion, and enrollment reached 12.5 million members. Anthem's pending merger with WellPoint Health Networks will create a health insurer with 27 million members. -- by Vince Galloro and Laura B. Benko