Tenet CEO welcomes delays in Republican changes to Obamacare

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By Michael Erman

<span class="articleLocation”>The delays in Republican plans to overhaul
Obamacare are helpful to hospital operator Tenet Healthcare Corp
, the company’s chief executive officer said on Tuesday,
as the timeline shifts further out for any changes to government
healthcare payments.

President Donald Trump campaigned on a promise to repeal and
replace the Affordable Care Act, often called Obamacare, but Republican lawmakers and the administration have not yet agreed
on a plan. Republicans say they do not want to pull the rug out
from the newly insured and are unlikely to adopt major changes
before 2019.

Trump is expected to lay out his healthcare policy in a
speech to Congress on Tuesday night.

“Look back to November or December it was all about ‘we’re
going to repeal the ACA day one,’ and then that morphed into ‘repeal and replace.’ That has morphed into ‘repair,’ and I
think that’s all positive for us,” CEO Trevor Fetter said on a
conference call on which he discussed Tenet’s
weaker-than-expected fourth-quarter results.

Fetter noted that recent polls have shown new highs in
public support for former President Barack Obama’s healthcare
law, known as Obamacare.

“Congress is in a really tough spot here but I think between
the improvement in the rhetoric and the improvement in public
opinion that we’re probably going to see some lengthier period
before we see any sort of radical changes,” he said.

The law expanded health care coverage to about 20 million
people, aiding hospitals by reducing the number of uninsured
patients who could not pay bills.

Hospital stocks sold off after the Nov. 8 presidential
election of Trump, but they gained some ground at the start of
2017, as investors set aside concerns about an immediate
dismantling of the program.

Tenet shares were down 12.8 percent at $19.77 in late
morning trading on Tuesday on concerns about the company’s
immediate growth outlook.

The company forecast lower-than-expected first-quarter
earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization
(EBITDA) of $475 million to $525 million, which compares to
EBITDA of $613 million in the first quarter last year.

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