Hospital operator HMA cuts 2013 outlook, shares dive

Tue Apr 9, 2013 5:06pm EDT

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(Reuters) - Hospital operator Health Management Associates Inc HMA.N on Tuesday reduced its outlook for 2013 earnings and revenue, citing weak patient admissions in the first quarter of the year, and its shares sank 12 percent after hours.

Stocks in the U.S. hospital sector, including HMA, have been on a tear this year, rallying in anticipation of an influx of new patients with health insurance obtained through exchanges set to go online in 2014 under the Affordable Care Act.

"We believe 2013 is a transitional year. We are working hard to put in place our plan to capitalize on the growth opportunities inherent in healthcare reform, and we have invested and plan to continue to invest in preparations for a January 2014 launch of health exchanges," HMA Chief Executive Gary Newsome said in a statement.

The company did not see a rise in patient volumes in the first quarter, typically its busiest, but had already put in place contracts for seasonal nursing labor, Newsome said. Those contracts are now expiring, and HMA is reducing costs to bring expenses in line with patient volumes, he said.

Shares of HMA fell 12 percent after-hours from a closing at $12.59 on the New York Stock Exchange.

(Reporting by Susan Kelly in Chicago; editing by Matthew Lewis)

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