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May 1 (Reuters) - U.S. hospital operator HCA Healthcare Inc posted quarterly profit and revenue that beat analysts' expectations, as it earned more from the admission of patients needing advanced care to its hospitals.
These patients helped drive a 3.9 percent rise in revenue per equivalent admission, which was well above analysts' estimates of 2.5 percent, according to Evercore ISI.
"A piece of that (revenue per equivalent admission) is pricing, part of it is coming from mix in the type of patients that we're getting," HCA President Samuel Hazen said, adding that more commercial insurers were also using the company's services.
Commercially insured patients are more lucrative to hospital operators than those who use government insurance.
The company, the largest U.S. for-profit hospital operator, said the flu season in the United States added about 29 percent to its overall patient admissions, and about 50 percent to its overall emergency room visits. Smaller rival Tenet Healthcare Corp posted a surprise profit on Monday, partly helped by growth in urgent care visits due to the flu season.
Net income attributable to HCA rose 73.6 percent to $1.14 billion, or $3.18 per share, in the first quarter ended March 31.
Excluding items, the company earned $2.33 per share, ahead of analysts' average estimate of $2.08, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
Revenue rose 7.5 percent to $11.42 billion, beating estimate of $11.31 billion.
HCA shares were down about 1 percent in midday trading. They have risen 9 percent this year through Monday's close. (Reporting by Anuron Kumar Mitra and Manas Mishra in Bengaluru; Editing by Anil D'Silva)