HCA, Nashville, said its earnings fell by more than 25% in the third quarter because of hurricanes in Florida, bad debt and a bucking of the company's trend of rising acuity. HCA earned $227 million, or 47 cents per share, in the quarter ended Sept. 30, compared with $306 million, or 61 cents per share, in the year-ago quarter. Revenue rose 5.9% to $5.79 billion. For the nine months, profits were down 9% at $924 million, or $1.88 per share, from profits of $1.02 billion, or $1.98 per share, in the year-ago period. Revenue for the nine months was 8% higher at $17.56 billion.
HCA said four hurricanes in August and September caused its 40 hospitals and 28 surgery centers in Florida to incur costs, including lost business, totaling $40 million, or 5 cents per share, after estimated insurance payments of $15 million. HCA took a $12 million charge, or 2 cents per share, related to the planned closure of its San Jose (Calif.) Medical Center in December. Bad debt was 11.9% of revenue in the third quarter, up from 10.3% of revenue in the year-ago quarter. On a conference call, HCA said its case-mix index for the third quarter was flat with the year-ago quarter, after increases of 3% in each of the first two quarters. Last week, HCA said a shift in its managed-care admissions to lower-paying plans had cut revenue, but the company said today that further study revealed the effect was not material. -- by Vince Galloro