For most businesses, dealing with the Department of Revenue of any state is rarely fun. Add into that mix the fact that the department is trying to collect back taxes from nearly 20 years ago and the CEO from that time — who left amid a scandal that cost your company $1.7 billion — now also happens to be the governor of the state in question. Now you know how HCA feels.
According to the Miami Herald, the hospital giant has filed a lawsuit against the Florida Department of Revenue over $750,000 in interest payments the state is trying to collect dating from 1994. HCA filed a corporate return that year but the Florida DoR claims that more taxes were owed. And now it wants 17 years' worth of interest.
Nashville's Covenant Capital Group has snapped up a 208-unit St. Petersburg apartment complex, paying national player Equity Residential more than $13 million. The 10-year-old company, which focuses on smaller deals that don't interest major institutions, manages a portfolio of more than 18,000 units.
Locally based Avondale Partners analyst Kevin Campbell has been tracking Florida legislative initiatives — spurred on by Gov. Rick Scott, the former Columbia/HCA chief — to privatize the state’s prison system. He says a proposal floated recently by the state senate there would privatize more than 17,000 beds and amount to a $363 million revenue opportunity for Nashville-based Corrections Corp. of America or its main competitor, The GEO Group. Margins for both companies generally run about 10 percent, so the bottom-line impact could be significant, too.
One factor that could limit CCA’s chances, Campbell says, is that the Senate plan — which is likely to be contested and then downsized — calls for a system of care that integrates various kinds of care, including mental health services. GEO is better equipped to offer those services itself, according to Campbell, whereas CCA would have to find a partner for some offerings.
More broadly, Campbell is upbeat about the chances of CCA and GEO picking up more state contracts as cash-strapped legislatures look for breathing room. He has ‘outperform’ ratings on the shares of both companies and sees them rising more than 20 percent in the coming quarters. CCA (Ticker: CXW) is down about 3 percent year to date.
The supercomputer who beat the two best contestants in Jeopardy! history is taking on health care. IBM and Nuance — the partners who created 'Watson' — hosted an exhibit at the Healthcare Information and Management Systems meeting to explain how the supercomputer could work with physicians and patients to solve health care problems.
American Medical News has the story. Here are a few pieces:
Because much of the success in health care is finding the right answers before it's too late, IBM believes Watson could dramatically improve health care delivery by offering, in minimal time, solutions that have a high level of certainty.
Robert Sicconi, program director of IBM's Thomas J. Watson Research Center, said one of the problems in health care is that 10,000 medical papers are published each year. There's no way a human could read all those papers and recall the information in them with the accuracy and speed Watson could bring, he said. And Watson has the ability to become smarter over time as more information is added to its knowledge base, Sicconi said.
Of course, the idea has its skeptics:
Health technology experts and vendors at the Orange County Convention Center buzzed about IBM's appearance to discuss Watson. But that doesn't mean all the buzz was positive.
"I think the [health] community respects what's been accomplished. They think it's neat," said Edward Shortliffe, MD, president of the American Medical Informatics Assn., who was speaking on his own behalf. "But we need to understand more about how it works.
"You cannot overestimate the importance of the extent to which that program has been written for a single purpose -- to play 'Jeopardy!' And solving medical diagnostic problems is not the same as playing 'Jeopardy!' "
The deal will bring HCA back into central Miami-Dade, since the chain sold Cedars Medical Center to UM in 2007. Experts expect an HCA-owned Mercy to compete with Jackson Memorial, the University of Miami Hospital and Mount Sinai Medical Center. Mercy, which has been in recent years a sister facility of Holy Cross in Fort Lauderdale, lost $3.4 million in 2009, after a $34 million loss in 2008. The 2010 financials are not yet public.