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NEW YORK (Reuters) - 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.
Reporting by Michael Erman; Editing by David Gregorio