Article worries take a bite out of HCA shares
LOS ANGELES (MarketWatch) -- Shares of
In a four-page letter released on its web site, HCA (HCA) took the unusual step of disputing some of the information that may or may not be discussed in an upcoming Times story, volunteering it as the company released its second-quarter earnings. Shares recovered some of their losses and ended the day down 4% to $25.55.
HCA said the Times has inquired about its cardiac procedures, patient care outcomes, emergency services and its care for the uninsured. A Times spokeswoman said the newspaper would not be commenting on any potential stories.
"Based upon its questions, the Times appears to be making broad points concerning patient care provided at our company's affiliated hospitals. As a result, we would like to share some background information," the HCA press release said.
HCA officials also disclosed that the U.S. Attorney's office in Miami requested information relating to the necessity of what it called "interventional cardiology." The hospital conducted several reviews of these procedures at 10 of its facilities, mostly in Florida, which is what federal prosecutors are targeting, the company said.
HCA officials declined to say whether the federal inquiry is related to the Times article.
The company did say, though, that on cardiac procedures, the Times appears to be interested in how it is determined when some are medically necessary, including cardiac catheterizations and percutaneous coronary interventions. The number of these procedures have declined in recent years at HCA hospitals, but are part of an industry-wide trend, the company said.
"These physician-driven decisions have been and are the subject of much debate within the cardiology community. Accordingly, there is variation across the country, between regions, within regions, and even within the same medical staff or medical group regarding this issue," HCA said.
The story may also address individual patients that had troubled outcomes at the company's hospitals, but HCA points out 90% of its facilities are in the top 25% in "core measures." The term describes clinical quality measures that it says is an industry standard.
HCA's reimbursement practices for emergency services may also be scrutinized, but the company says it abides by industry standards. And uninsured patient care is another potential topic, but it is unclear how that may figure into the piece, HCA says. It points out that 23% of its patients seen in emergency rooms are uninsured.
"The company undertakes no duty to update or further comment on this matter," HCA says.
HCA made the disclosure as it reported second-quarter earnings that were ahead of analyst estimates. Net income was $391 million, or 85 cents a share, compared with $229 million, or 43 cents a share, for the same period a year ago. Revenue for the Nashville, Tenn.-based company was $8.1 billion against last year's $7.2 billion.
The company was expected to report earnings of 78 cents a share, according to analysts polled by FactSet. HCA said it was affirming its full-year outlook of earnings between $3.57 and $3.77 a share. The FactSet estimate had called for earnings of $3.58 a share.