Health Management ( HMA) adjusted its 2006 earnings forecast to reflect lower-than-expected patient volume at the hospitals it operates. HMA said Monday it expects to earn $1.43 to $1.49 a share in 2006, compared with the Thomson First Call consensus estimate of $1.49 a share. The updated guidance reflects a host of special items that net out to a charge of 7 cents a share, some of which appeared to be already reflected in analysts' estimates. For the year, HMA expects same-hospital admissions to rise 1.5% to 2.5% from 2005, down from its previous forecast of 2% to 4%. It also raised its estimate of bad-debt expense to a range of 7.75% to 8.75% of revenue, from 7.5% to 8.5% of revenue. "HMA's hospitals continue to experience slower growth in patient volumes (reflected in admissions and adjusted admissions) and higher levels of uncompensated care (reflected in indigent/charity care and bad debt expense) than previously anticipated," it said. The stock closed at $21.21 Friday, about 14 times the high end of the 2006 earnings range. The 52-week high of $27 was touched last summer.