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Partners HealthCare’s CEO talks Obamacare, VA with Trump

Mayo Clinic chief executive John Noseworthy, left, talked with Partners HealthCare chief executive Dr. David Torchiana as they arrived for a meeting with President-elect Donald Trump Wednesday.Evan Vucci/Associated press/Associated Press

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The head of Massachusetts’ largest health care system joined other prominent hospital executives in a meeting on Wednesday with President-elect Donald Trump, who has vowed to repeal the Affordable Care Act, a move many in the medical industry oppose.

Partners HealthCare chief executive Dr. David Torchiana attended the 90-minute closed-door session at the president-elect’s Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Fla., along with the CEOs of Mayo Clinic, Cleveland Clinic, and Johns Hopkins Medicine.

The meeting included “lots of brainstorming on how to improve and reform [the Department of Veterans Affairs] to ensure great access and quality of care for our veterans,” Trump spokesman Sean Spicer said in an-email. Also discussed were the Affordable Care Act and related issues, Spicer told STAT, a national health and science publication.

Trump’s top advisers, including Reince Priebus and Steve Bannon, were in the room, as were Dr. Bruce Moskowitz, a Florida physician, and Ike Perlmutter, the head of Marvel Entertainment and a big donor to New York University’s Langone Medical Center.


Trump has said that one of his first acts as president will be to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, President Obama’s signature health care overhaul. He has offered few specifics on what would take the place of the current law, also known as Obamacare.

Many health care specialists, including Torchiana, have warned that repealing the law could disrupt millions of families who gained insurance coverage under the law.

“De-insuring 20 million people, many of whom were probably Trump voters, is a pretty difficult thing to do politically,” Torchiana said in November. “Figuring out what the pathway is to altering the ACA and doing so in a way that actually doesn’t increase the cost of health care is pretty difficult. There’s not a simple policy solution to it.”


Rich Copp, a spokesman for Boston-based Partners, said Torchiana met with the president-elect at Trump’s invitation. “They discussed a wide range of health care policy issues, including affordability, quality, and biomedical research,” Copp said.

Dr. Paul Rothman, CEO of Baltimore-based Johns Hopkins Medicine, said he was encouraged by Trump’s interest in meeting with health care leaders. “I believe Mr. Trump’s interest reflects his recognition of the critical importance of health care and biomedical research to the country,” he said in a statement.

Eileen Sheil, a spokeswoman for Cleveland Clinic, said clinic executives also were pleased that Trump is “reaching out for input from the top CEOs in the country.”

Rochester, Minn.-based Mayo Clinic said in a statement that its chief, Dr. John Noseworthy, accepted Trump’s invitation to “share his perspective on the future of health care delivery, research, and excellence.”

Trump’s team is expected to schedule additional meetings with the health care CEOs, according to people familiar with the discussions.

In recent weeks, Trump has held a series of private meetings with business leaders as he prepares to take office in January. He has previously spoken with Dr. Toby Cosgrove, the Cleveland Clinic CEO, who is under consideration to be head of Veterans Affairs.

The 2010 health care law has played a critical role in shaping the way hospitals do business. About 20 million people have gained coverage through Medicaid or private insurance, increasing their ability to use hospital services. Obamacare has pushed the industry to adopt new payment models that encourage them to contain costs by providing care under set budgets, instead of billing for every new test and procedure.


Partners and other hospital networks also rely on huge amounts of federal dollars to fund Medicare, Medicaid, and research grants. These big government programs could see changes with Trump in office and Republicans in charge of Congress.

Partners is the parent company of 10 Massachusetts hospitals, including Massachusetts General and Brigham and Women’s, among the most respected in the country. Torchiana has been vocal on issues such as health care costs and quality. He often promotes Massachusetts’ health care system as among the best and most cost-effective in the country for its cutting-edge medical research and care.

Torchiana, in a meeting at the Boston Globe last month, said he had not yet met Trump and that he was uncertain about how the new administration would seek to change national health policy.

“We’re going to see a tightening of the belt in terms of Washington programs and the money that’s coming out of Washington to fund health care, but I’m clueless as to what the specifics are going to be,” he said at the time.

Torchiana is a heart surgeon and the longtime former head of the physicians group at Mass. General. He became chief of Boston-based Partners in March 2015.

Torchiana has been involved with health care and economic issues for many years. He talks regularly with public officials, including Governor Charlie Baker, a former health insurance executive, and Attorney General Maura Healey. He is a director of Jobs for Massachusetts, a group of business leaders and public officials who meet monthly to discuss policy issues. He is also a member of the Massachusetts Competitive Partnership, a public policy group comprised of chief executives from the state’s largest companies.


Priyanka Dayal McCluskey can be reached at priyanka.mccluskey@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @priyanka_dayal.