HCA, Nashville, said bad-debt expense will improve when more patients have insurance, notwithstanding bad debt's slight improvement in the second quarter to 11.3% of revenue, down from 11.7% in the first quarter. The company earned $352 million, or 72 cents per share, in the quarter ended June 30, compared with $240 million, or 47 cents per share, in the year-ago quarter. Revenue was up 6.7% to $5.83 billion. As HCA said last week, its profits benefited from a $59 million reduction in its professional liability-insurance reserves prompted by an actuarial review of claims trends and malpractice tort reform in Florida and Texas. The 2003 second-quarter results also were hurt by a noncash asset impairment charge of $130 million. For the six months ended June 30, HCA earned $697 million, or $1.41 per share, compared with $709 million, or $1.37 per share, in the year-ago period. HCA recently completed a $1.5 billion share repurchase program that boosted the per-share earnings figure. Revenue rose 9.6% to $11.77 billion.
The company's equivalent admissions were up 1% and 3.7% for the second quarter and first half of 2004, respectively. Outpatient surgery volume was up 0.9%, with a shift away from HCA's 190 hospitals. Volume was up 4.1% at its 91 ambulatory surgery centers and down 0.4% for hospital-based outpatient surgeries. -- by Vince Galloro