Carolinas HealthCare CEO: ‘Next couple months will shape healthcare for the next decade’

As a contentious and controversial plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act wends its way through Congress, Carolinas HealthCare System executives are keeping a watchful eye on the process, which could reshape the area’s biggest hospital system’s business.

“These next couple months will shape healthcare for the next decade,” said Eugene “Gene” Woods, speaking to the CHS Board of Commissioners at Carolinas Medical Center on Tuesday.

Hospital systems last week joined a letter from the American Hospital Association to Congress, urging members not to support the current repeal efforts. Woods is the current chairman of that group, and said recent estimates of how many additional people would be uninsured under the proposal – up to 24 million, according to an estimate Monday from the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office – make it unworkable.

“We could not support legislation as it was currently constituted,” said Woods. The hospital system is lobbying to make its views known, and Woods said the AHA is talking with White House officials about the legislation, which the Trump administration and House Majority Leader Paul Ryan support.

Woods said partisanship around the bill threatens to derail any chance of success.

“The challenge with the ACA was it didn’t have bipartisan support,” said Woods. “We’re in danger of the same situation now.”

Mac Everett, a board member, emphasized the fluidity of the situation.

“This is a changing story day by day, and maybe even hour by hour,” said Everett.

In 2016, CHS, a not-for-profit system, saw its total net operating revenue rise 4.2 percent in 2016, to over $9 billion. The hospital system’s net operating profit was $176 million, down by $246 million from 2015, which executives attributed to tougher operating conditions at some of the healthcare system’s regional affiliates.

Ely Portillo: 704-358-5041, @ESPortillo