HCA, Nashville, said both bad debt and malpractice concerns became less of a financial burden in its second quarter ended June 30. Giving a preview of second-quarter results, HCA said bad debt was 11.3% of revenue -- worse than 10.6% in the 2003 second quarter but better than 11.7% in the 2004 first quarter. Quarterly earnings were boosted $59 million, or 7 cents per share, thanks to a change in the estimate for malpractice liability reserves. HCA said an independent actuarial analysis found favorable trends in claims and payouts and changes in tort laws in certain states, primarily Texas and Florida, that allowed the lower reserves. The company expects to post 72 cents per-share earnings when it reports full results July 26. Minus the improvement related to the lower malpractice reserves, HCA's earnings matched analysts' average estimate of 65 cents per share. -- by Vince Galloro
HCA says burden of bad debt, malpractice lightens
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