Council News

January 22, 2014

CHS’ Wayne Smith tweaks Tennessee Legislature at ‘Wall Street’ panel

CHS’ Wayne Smith tweaks Tennessee Legislature at ‘Wall Street’ panel
by Eleanor Kennedy | Nashville Business Journal | Jan 22, 2014

Wayne Smith, CEO of Community Health Systems, criticized the Tennessee Legislature at a panel Wednesday sponsored by the Nashville Health Care Council.

Community Health Systems CEO Wayne Smith kicked off the Nashville Health Care Council’s annual “Wall Street” panel Wednesday with a comment about Tennessee’s decision not to expand Medicaid, setting the stage for one of the dominant themes of the event.

“I’m not quite sure why our state Legislature can’t figure this out,” Smith said. Later, when panelist Ralph Giacobbe of Credit Suisse argued that Medicaid expansion would benefit both patients and providers, Smith replied: “Good job. Would you like to speak to our state Legislature?”

A report released Wednesday by Jackson Hewitt estimated that Tennessee’s decision to not expand Medicaid will cost businesses between $48 million and $72 million.

In addition to Medicaid expansion, the panel — moderated by Smith and composed of health-focused financial analysts — tackled questions about industry consolidation, consumerism and risk in a post-reform world, and the future of the Affordable Care Act.

Here’s a roundup of the biggest topics covered:

Medicaid Expansion: Although several states, including Tennessee, chose not to expand Medicaid using federal dollars, Wednesday’s panelists expect most, if not all, to eventually expand the program in some form, even if programs take on a different name to clear political hurdles. Look for the red states in the South to find a way to expand coverage for low-income residents when the dust settles after this year’s election season.

Consolidation: Consolidations, acquisitions, collaborations and other partnerships will all continue in 2014 and onward, according to the panelists. Smith, whose company is about to close a $7.6 billion deal for Florida-based Health Management Associates, jokingly asked a few times if there would be upcoming deals worth more than $7.6 billion. The answer from the panel? Yes.

Health care reform: The Affordable Care Act is here to stay, though it will likely see tweaks and changes in the coming years. None of the panelists expect complete repeal of the law at any point, but all expect modifications as political power shifts and once all the law’s effects are visible. Overall, the panelists said, health care reform and the changes and innovation it will bring are likely to come slowly, as the industry is often “evolutionary,” rather than “revolutionary.”

Eleanor Kennedy covers Nashville’s health care and technology industries.

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