UPDATE 2-Tenet quarterly net loss narrows, year outlook confirmed

Mon May 5, 2014 7:52pm EDT

(Adds earnings details, background)

May 5 (Reuters) - Hospital operator Tenet Healthcare Corp posted a first-quarter loss on Monday, hurt by cuts in payments from the federal Medicare program for the elderly, but confirmed its full-year profit outlook as it admitted more patients to its facilities.

Patient admissions strengthened, particularly in states that expanded their Medicaid programs for the poor under President Barack Obama's healthcare reform, Tenet said.

Admissions grew by 17 percent in four states where Tenet operates that expanded Medicaid, while uninsured and charity admissions declined 33 percent.

Hospitals in general have admitted fewer patients in recent years as people who lost jobs and health insurance or faced higher out-of-pocket medical expenses stopped going to the doctor.

Hospitals are expected to benefit from the extension of insurance coverage to more Americans under the Affordable Care Act, even as the government looks to curb Medicare and Medicaid spending.

Dallas-based Tenet said its total adjusted admissions, which include both inpatient and outpatient figures, at its facilities rose 0.3 percent in the first quarter.

Tenet said patients who obtained their insurance through exchanges created as part of the new law rose during the first quarter and into April.

Tenet, the third-largest U.S. for-profit hospital chain, reported a net loss of $32 million, or 33 cents a share, compared with a net loss of $88 million, or 85 cents a share, a year ago.

Tenet recorded a loss from continuing operations, excluding costs for restructuring, acquisition, litigation and debt retirement, of $12 million, or 12 cents a share, compared with income of $34 million, or 33 cents a share, in the same period a year ago.

On that basis, analysts had expected a loss of 14 cents a share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization, and excluding special items, increased 41 percent to $387 million from a year ago.

Bad debt expense increased by 5.8 percent to $380 million in the first quarter, compared with a year ago.

Tenet confirmed its forecast for 2014 earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization, excluding one-time items, in a range of $1.8 billion to $1.9 billion.

Tenet shares closed down 5 cents at $45.36 Monday on the New York Stock Exchange. (Reporting by Susan Kelly in Chicago; Editing by David Gregorio and Andre Grenon)

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