A weaker flu season stifled admissions growth at HCA and Iasis Healthcare Corp. in the quarter ended Dec. 31, 2004. HCA, Nashville, said admissions were down 1.4% and equivalent admissions up 0.1%, on a same-facility basis, from its 2003 fourth quarter. The company said its emphasis on outpatient services in the past year mitigated an 18.3% decline in flu-related admissions from the year-ago quarter. Profits for 2004 fell 6.4%, affected by a 2003 gain of $41 million from a change in Medicaid cost-report estimates. HCA earned $1.25 billion, or $2.58 per share, in 2004, compared with $1.33 billion, or $2.61 per share, in 2003. Revenue grew 7.8% to $23.5 billion. Fourth-quarter profits were $322 million, or 70 cents per share, up from $317 million, or 63 cents per share, in the year-ago quarter. In both cases, 2004 earnings per share reflect a stock repurchase. Fourth-quarter revenue was up 6.1% to $5.94 billion. Bad-debt expense fell to 10.5% of revenue for the quarter, compared with 11.4% in the year-ago quarter, thanks in part to an accounting change. For the year, the expense was 11.4%, compared with 10.1% in 2003. HCA owns or operates about 190 hospitals.
Iasis, Franklin, Tenn., reported more than a 20% increase in profits to $10 million for its first quarter ended Dec. 31, 2004, compared with $8.2 million in the year-ago quarter, despite lower admissions at hospitals owned for at least one year. Revenue rose 16.3% to $370 million. Iasis said same-hospital admissions and adjusted admissions both declined 4.1% compared with the year-ago quarter, but revenue per adjusted admission climbed 8.6%. Salary and benefit expenses for the quarter fell more than two percentage points as a percentage of revenue. Bad-debt expense rose to 11.4% of acute-care revenue from 10.1% in the year-ago quarter. Iasis owns or operates 15 hospitals in five states. -- by Vince Galloro