CHS profits down in Q4

Cost controls help offset some of 10% admissions drop

Community Health Systems reported net income in the fourth quarter of $52 million, or 30 cents per diluted share, down from $85 million and 69 cents per diluted share in late 2012. EBITDA for the quarter fell 8 percent to $442 million.

However, excluding three one-time costs — including a settlement related to the government's investigation into CHS' short-stay hospital admissions, an asset impairment charge and expenses related to the acquisition of Health Management Associates — adjusted income was 49 cents per diluted share, which fell 18 cents short of analysts' expectations. Excluding $3.5 million in settlement reserves and $8.8 million of acquisition expenses, adjusted EBITDA was $454 million.

Q4 net revenues for the Franklin-based company were $3.2 billion, down slightly from $3.3 billion the year prior. CHS reported a 10.5 percent decrease in total admissions in the quarter, and a 6.7 percent decrease in adjusted admissions compared with the same period in 2012. (The company previewed its soft volume numbers six weeks ago.)

"Our financial and operating results for the fourth quarter reflect a continuation of the challenging operating environment for health care providers over the past year," Chairman and CEO Wayne Smith said in a release. "However, we have continued to focus on our cost management and strategic initiatives to efficiently manage our operations in this challenging environment, and we are pleased with the progress being made across our hospital network."

Smith said soft admission volume, higher bad debt and a less favorable payor mix were behind the drop in operating revenues for CHS, which owns, leases or operates 206 hospitals in 29 states, including 71 hospitals purchased through the acquisition of HMA earlier this year.

Shares of CHS (Ticker: CYH) were down 2 percent to $40.81 in after hours trading. They are up slightly over the past three months.