Neither a Securities and Exchange Commission investigation nor a Senate Finance Committee inquiry into its billing practices dampened home health provider LHC Group’s third quarter earnings. The company bested by 3 cents analysts’ predictions of earnings of 70 cents per share, reporting net income of $13.3 million, compared with $9.8 million or 54 cents per share for the quarter ending Sept. 30, 2009.

The Lafayette-based health care group reported earnings after the market closed Monday, when its stock was already down 11 cents, having fallen to $26.79 per share. Its stock opened at $27.94 today and has already traded as high as $28.11.

LHC Group is among four publicly traded companies under investigation by the SEC for allegedly ordering unnecessary home visits in order to reach thresholds and trigger bonus Medicare reimbursements. The investigations were prompted by an April 2010 Wall Street Journal investigative report on the industry’s billing practices. The local company denies wrongdoing and says it is cooperating with investigators.

Earnings at LHC Group’s Baton Rouge based competitor, Amedisys, the initial target of the SEC investigation (along with Kentucky-based Almost Family), did not fare nearly as well in the third quarter. The company's profits fell 40 percent, compared with the same quarter last year.

LHC Group also announced Monday that its board authorized the repurchase of up to $50 million of its outstanding common stock. Under the plan, the company can repurchase shares from time to time for cash in open market purchases, and block transactions and privately negotiated transactions. This repurchase program may be modified or terminated by the company at any time and does not in any way obligate it to buy the shares.

“This stock repurchase program demonstrates the confidence we have in our company and shows our commitment to delivering long-term shareholder value,” CEO Keith Myers said. “Our strong balance sheet enables us to actively invest cash in areas that we believe will drive future value for shareholders, such as acquisitions and stock repurchases. ... While stock price will be one factor in our ongoing repurchase analysis, we will also review many other factors — all with the goal of continuing to deliver the best possible return for our shareholders.”

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