Stock in Health Management Associates, a chain of mostly rural hospitals, was down 10% after a downgrade from UBS today. HMA’s stock has actually had a decent run up of over 40% since June, and with the Medicare bill favoring rural hospitals this might have been expected to continue. But the hint from UBS is that there are issues with billing, and of course that makes everyone think of Tenet and Columbia/HCA–of which HMA’s hospitals were a part before the now HCA spun them off as one result of their Medicare billing scandal.
In fact Don Johnson from the Businessword and I were having an email discussion about this last week and I presciently wrote this to him last Thursday:
meanwhile HMA is a logical winner, but I’m terrified of investing in hospital chains as they always get indicted for fraud or its equivalent eventually (e.g. NME, Columbia-HCA, Tenet)
So did I take every penny I had and short HMA on Friday? Of course not; curses, curses!