LifePoint Hospitals, Brentwood, Tenn., said volume losses of 15% in a half-dozen markets fueled a 6% decline in admissions for the fourth quarter of 2007 that helped sink its profits by 20%. Bad-debt expense, as a percentage of net revenue, rose by 16%. LifePoint reported profits of $30.6 million for the fourth quarter compared with profits of $38.4 million in the year-ago period. Revenue increased 4.7% to $658.4 million. For the year, profits fell even more sharply, by 30.2% to $102 million, compared with profits of $146.2 million in 2006. Revenue increased 9.7% to $2.63 billion. The company did not disclose the markets involved in the 15% volume decline, but executives on a conference call with analysts said that hospital-specific factors accounted for much of it.
Already the subject of three lawsuits, the proposed $311 million takeover of Colorados three-hospital Exempla Healthcare system by the Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth Health System may enter a new legal arena as the Sisters of Charity plans to seek a court order requiring the parties use arbitration to resolve the matter. Sisters of Charity announced that, on Feb. 11, it will ask a U.S. District Court judge in Denver to suspend all proceedings connected to a lawsuit filed Jan. 8 by Exempla to block the deal. Exempla filed another lawsuit on Jan. 25 seeking to set aside the Colorado attorney generals office opinion that the office couldnt block the deal. Another lawsuit to block the sale was filed Dec. 19, 2007. Exempla, which is co-owned by the Sisters of Charity and the Arvada, Colo.-based Community First Foundation, does not want to adopt the Catholic Churchs rules for treatment.
Hospitals in California in recent years have charged the uninsured just as much or more than Medicare for treatment, according to a new report. The report, by researchers at RAND Corp. and the University of Southern California and published in Health Affairs, indicates that, on average, hospitals in the state collected a higher percentage of their list prices, known as chargemasters, from the uninsured than those covered by Medicare. The report used 2001-05 state data. Because Medicare prices went up 13% in that same period, that means that prices for the uninsured are going up, too, said Glenn Melnick, lead author of the study. A 2006 state law prohibits hospitals from charging low- and middle-income patients more than the highest Medicare rates.
A scheduled court date regarding Cincinnati-based Christ Hospitals attempt to dissolve its erstwhile parent system, the Health Alliance of Greater Cincinnati, was moved late last week to Feb. 19 from Feb. 14 (See Outliers, p. 36).
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