LHC posts profit gain

Home nursing company LHC Group Inc., of Lafayette, on Wednesday reported fourth-quarter earnings of $7.4 million, or 43 cents per share, on revenue of $161.8 million.

That compared with $7.2 million, or 39 cents per share, on revenue of $157.7 million for the same period a year ago.

For the year, the company earned $27.4 million, or $1.53 per share, on revenue of $637.6 million. In 2011, LHC recorded a loss of $13.2 million, or 73 cents per share, on revenue of $633.9 million. LHC said that loss was mainly the result of a $45 million after-tax charge related to settling a federal whistleblower case.

Both the fourth-quarter and 2012 results exceeded stock analysts’ expectations. Analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters forecast fourth-quarter earnings of 37 cents per share and annual earnings of $1.49 per share.

Meanwhile, LHC said it expects 2013 earnings in the range of $1.10 to $1.30 per share with revenue in the range of $660 million to $680 million. The company said the results of federal spending cuts, also known as sequestration, will lower Medicare revenue by around $8.5 million and 30 cents per share for the last nine months of the year.

In the whistleblower case, LHC settled for $65 million in 2011 but denied allegations by the U.S. Justice Department that LHC between 2006 and 2008 improperly billed Medicare for medically unnecessary services and billed for services to patients who weren’t homebound.

The company said a major reason it settled the lawsuit was to avoid a costly and lengthy legal fight with the federal government, which regulates LHC and also pays for most of the home health services the company provides to patients.