We hope your new year is off to a great start. For those of us who work in health care, 2017 promises to be one of the most interesting and challenging years that we’ve faced. The Trump Administration is in office and efforts are underway to repeal and replace the controversial Affordable Care Act (ACA). There is no guarantee on what the final product may look like, but it will likely retain some elements of the ACA—keeping the elimination of the pre-existing condition clause and continuing to allow eligible children up to the age of 26 to remain on their parent’s insurance. Regardless, change is coming to the nation’s health care insurance system and that creates a lot of uncertainty for patients and providers.

For hospitals in Alabama, this uncertainty stretches to the state level as well. The long term future of Alabama Medicaid remains unpredictable. You may have read that the State of Alabama has again postponed the beginning of the new Medicaid managed care program until October 2017. The decisions that are made at the federal and state level will have significant impact on Huntsville Hospital Health System. Today, over 60% of our patients have their insurance through Medicare, Tricare, and Medicaid.

Our approach to uncertainty is to continue to work on the things that will make us better than the rest of the hospitals in the country. Continuous quality improvement is an old term but it describes well what we must do to remain a national leader in clinical quality and patient safety. Customer Service must remain a top priority and managing what we spend is not optional. Speaking of quality care and service, our team excelled during the recent Joint Commission survey. We are very proud of our staff.

While we see challenges ahead, we also see exciting opportunities to continue to serve our growing communities. Over the next five years we are going to significantly increase the investments we make in our IT systems and facilities. Historically we invest about $60 million per year in maintaining our facilities, building new facilities, and purchasing new equipment. We will accelerate our investments in our communities by replacing our clinical IT systems, adding beds in Madison, seeking state approval to build a new bed tower and additional parking at Huntsville Main, and making major investments at Decatur Morgan, Athens-Limestone and Helen Keller facilities. We are committed to having the facilities and equipment that our staff needs to provide excellent care to our patients.

We have served this community for more than 120 years. The investments we are making will ensure we are prepared to continue that long tradition of service to the community and region. It will be an exciting time but it will also be difficult at times.

Thank you for allowing us to serve you and your family.