Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Hospitals Seek Congressional Care

Washington, D.C. - In a shaky market, hospital stocks have lagged as a group. The seven in the table below trade an average of 28% off their 52-week highs, versus an equivalent decline of 14% for the S&P 500 index.

Yet, while it sputters in the marketplace, the hospital business remains well-oiled inside the beltway.

"Everyone knows the hospitals have been struggling for years with bad debt, with the uninsured, with reimbursement issues, with being squeezed by managed-care companies and so on," says Michael Wiederhorn, executive director and equity analyst at Oppenheimer. "Republican, Democrat--no one wants to see the hospitals struggle or wants to take money away [from them]."

The mood this week has been suitably upbeat at the annual membership meeting in Washington of the American Hospital Association (AHA), an advocacy group. A brass band greeted hundreds of hospital execs as they filed into a hotel ballroom for a legislative briefing Monday. Like a ballgame, the morning session opened with the national anthem and cheers.

"The turnout for this annual meeting, our 39th, is terrific," said American Hospital Association Chief Richard Umbdenstock. Good thing for him: Wednesday, he's sending attendees (1,700 registered) to Capitol Hill to hit up legislators on AHA's top priorities.

Full story at Forbes.com