HCA's Profit Up 35% in Q4, Down Slightly in 2013

Despite a 1.8 percent drop in same-hospital admissions in the fourth quarter, Nashville, Tenn.-based Hospital Corporation of America still managed to post a $424 million profit — up 35 percent from the fourth quarter in 2012.

HCAMilton Johnson, HCA's president and CEO, said the company was "extremely pleased" with the fourth-quarter and year-end results. Fourth-quarter revenue ticked upward by 4.8 percent to more than $8.8 billion. The higher earnings were due in part to a $175 million legal claim HCA had to mark on its 2012 earnings.

For the entire 2013 fiscal year, HCA's profit slipped about 3.1 percent, from $1.61 billion in 2012 to $1.56 billion. Higher income taxes and fewer electronic health record incentive dollars from the federal government contributed to the decline. However, revenue increased 3.5 percent to $34.2 billion.

Last month, HCA issued a preview of its earnings, estimating its year-end adjusted EBITDA would be higher than expected. Adjusted EBITDA in 2013 reached just shy of $6.6 billion.

Although same-facility admissions and emergency room visits were down in the fourth quarter, HCA posted positive operating data — something few other hospital chains could say. Admissions for the year increased 0.1 percent, while ER visits climbed 0.7 percent. However, outpatient surgery cases dropped 0.5 percent.

For 2014, HCA expects modest growth to continue. Year-end revenue is projected to be between $35.5 billion and $36.5 billion. Adjusted EBITDA is expected to be as high as $6.85 billion. HCA also expects to make about $2.2 billion in capital expenditures.

As of Dec. 31, 2013, HCA operated 165 hospitals and 115 freestanding ambulatory surgery centers. It remains as the largest for-profit hospital operator by revenue and is the second-largest by hospital count, only behind Franklin, Tenn.-based Community Health Systems, which just acquired Naples, Fla.-based Health Management Associates.

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