Community Health Systems, the largest U.S. chain by hospital count, reported a higher operating margin for the fourth quarter as patient volume improved year over year.
The Franklin, Tenn.-based company also continued to benefit from healthcare reform and its January 2014 acquisition of Health Management Associates.
HMA's hospitals were included in the fourth-quarter 2014 results, boosting revenue 54.1% to nearly $5 billion.
Yet even on a same-hospital basis, Community reported that its fourth-quarter net operating revenue increased 4.7% year over year. Same-hospital admissions decreased only 0.2% and increased 2.7% when adjusted for outpatient activity.
Community, with its mostly rural focus, struggled to maintain patient volume throughout 2013. The chain attributed the higher patient volume at the end of last year in part to the severe flu season.
With HMA included, Community reported $100 million in net income on $4.9 billion in revenue for the fourth quarter compared with $28 million in net income on $3.2 billion in revenue in the prior-year period.
The company's operating margin improved to 9.7% in the quarter, up from 7.7% during the same period in 2013.
Community said its results also included expenses related to the HMA merger as well as unrelated legal matters. Community this month disclosed that it would pay $75 million to settle allegations that it made illegal donations to three New Mexico counties to receive higher federal matching funds. The chain also incurred $26 million in legal fees associated with fighting the whistle-blower case.
Follow Beth Kutscher on Twitter: @MHbkutscher