THE ISSUE

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Earlier this year, Wellmont Health System (Wellmont) announced that it was pursuing strategic options to look at merging with another health system.  That process has been ongoing but hidden from the community due to non-disclosure agreements.  What we do know is that Wellmont has narrowed their merger discussions down to three hospital systems.  Our goal is to have an open discussion around a possible merger with Mountain States Health Alliance (MSHA) because that is in the best interests of your region, both from a healthcare and economic perspective.

WHAT IS AT STAKE

Wellmont is an $800 million per year business that supports more than 6,000 jobs.  Mountain States Health Alliance is a $1 billion per year business that supports more than 8,000 jobs.  We believe in those 14,000 people, and in local control of the destiny of these huge economic drivers to our region.  That’s why we can’t support giving control of our health systems to another state or region.  We believe in the people of East Tennessee and Southwest Virginia, and we don’t believe we need to sell out to an out of state, or out of region, hospital system to guide us forward.  We want decisions about our health care made here.  We own these hospitals and we don’t want them governed from somewhere else.   Will they care about our quality of care?  Will they care about our economy?  Not the way our own people will.

If Wellmont is purchased by a big company from outside our region, then a group of people from another city, in another state, will be making decisions about your healthcare.  Once that is done, there is no turning back.  Just ask the people of Belhaven, North Carolina what happened to their local hospital after it was acquired by a big company from another area.

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WATCH THE FORUM FROM 8/18

Source: TimesNews.com

THE GOAL

Save Your Hospitals is a grassroots effort that is committed to keeping healthcare locally based in East Tennessee and Southwest Virginia. Our mission is to create an open discussion about a possible merger between Wellmont Health Systems and Mountain States Health Alliance. The goal is to keep community-based healthcare, as well as to protect over 15,000 jobs that are vital to our local economy.

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  • COST OF HEALTHCARE

    We have two local hospital systems in a relatively small region that have amassed $1.5 billion in debt with each trying to outdo the other with unnecessary duplicative spending.   Wouldn’t it be better, instead of wasting borrowed money, the hospitals invest in creating more jobs through innovation and research?  Selling one or both of our hospital systems to outside health care systems from another state could result in loss of jobs and higher costs.

 

  • QUALITY OF HEALTHCARE

    Did you know many of the top hospital systems, according to Modern Healthcare Magazine, are smaller, regional systems like Mountain States and Wellmont?  In fact, one of the top hospital systems is Mission in Asheville – a hospital system created through the local merger of two previously competing hospitals…like Mountain States and Wellmont.  According to data from an independent study, their costs are lower than the peer group average, and for five years in a row, they have been named one of the top 100 hospitals in the nation and more recently, one of the top 15 hospital systems in the nation.  You don’t have to be part of a $3-5 billion hospital system to be great.  You just have to be….great.  Mission operates under a Certificate of Public Advantage just like what we are advocating for in the Tri-Cities.

 

  • OPTIONS

    This does not create a monopoly. Hospital competition isn’t the same as free market competition. If there isn’t enough demand (patients) to warrant the supply (multiple hospital systems), prices are driven up due to the cost of competition. A merger between the two systems will not result in an increase in costs. Affordable, quality healthcare for our area means a reliable, employable workforce for local businesses.

THE RESULT

What would a Wellmont/MSHA system look like?

It would consist of 20 hospitals with nearly $2 billion in Total Revenue and $1 billion in cash. According to Modern Healthcare Magazine‘s 2014 Hospital survey, it would be as large or larger than:

  • Carillion Clinic, Roanoke, VA
  • Ochsner Health System, New Orleans, LA
  • Wake Forest Baptist Hospital, Winston-Salem, NC
  • Wellstar Health System, Atlanta, GA
  • Broward Health, Fort Lauderdale, FL
  • Appalachian Regional Healthcare, KY
  • Summa Health, OH
  • Temple University, Philadelphia, PA
  • INTEGRIS Health, OK
  • Parkland Health System, Dallas, TX
  • MUSC Medical Center, Charleston, SC
  • Covenant Health, Knoxville, TN
  • West Tennessee Healthcare, Jackson, TN
  • Erlanger Health System, Chattanooga, TN

Furthermore, in terms of a simple hospital count, a Wellmont/MSHA merger would result in a system larger than the University of California, New York City Health and Hospitals Corp, Carolinas HealthCare System, Johns Hopkins, Sentara Health, Novant Health, and many more.

WHAT DO WE WANT?

We want to remove the barriers that are preventing a thoughtful, unbiased conversation about how to best serve your healthcare needs now and in the future.  This means Wellmont has to be more forthcoming with their position and allow true conversations with MSHA in order to evaluate the benefits of a merged hospital system that is truly operated at the local level.

One of the founders of SaveYourHospitals is Bill Greene.  Bill lives, works and plays in this area.  He is a successful banker, philanthropist, and long-time supporter of higher education who has the health of the regional economy as his primary focus.

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MYTHS VS. FACTS

MYTH #1

A merger between Wellmont and Mountain States Health Alliance will create a monopoly and cause health care costs to increase in our region.

FACT:

According to the law, a Certificate of Public Advantage (COPA) will protect us from price gouging. If a health care system outside of the region merges with Wellmont, there is no such law to protect us from major premium increases.

MYTH #2

It really makes no difference to me if Wellmont merges with an another health care system or is acquired by another health care system from outside our region.

FACT:

If Wellmont merges with another hospital or is purchased by a large company from another region, we lose control over issues affecting our health care as there would not be local community accountability or representation.

MYTH #3

There would not be much of an economic impact to our local business community if Wellmont is purchased by another hospital group outside the area.

FACT

If Wellmont is purchased by a healthcare system outside the area, there could be layoffs from within the hospital organization as well as from many small businesses as they will not be able to provide insurance for their employees.

MYTH #4

There would be little to no effect on higher medical education if this merger takes place with an outside health system.

FACT:

Without a strong local hospital system, we would lose the synergy with the Quillen College of Medicine and Gatton College of Pharmacy. This could diminish future research and additional jobs that benefit each.

MYTH #5

Access and quality of healthcare in our region would not be affected if merger takes place with an outside health system.

FACT:

If a merger between Mountain States Health Alliance and Wellmont takes place, there will be more efficient areas of specialized medical services in the area of cancer treatment, pediatrics, trauma, and cardiac care.

MYTH #6

This area won't lose jobs if Wellmont sells to a health system outside the East Tennessee / SW Virginia area.

FACT

Wellmont alone employs approximately 6,500 people. Selling to a group outside the area means many jobs may be eliminated or outsourced.

LATEST NEWS

BJ: Physicians address merger’s impact on clinicians

BJ: Physicians address merger’s impact on clinicians

When he spoke at the Wellmont Health System-Mountain States Health Alliance merger announcement April 2, Dr. Jeff Farrow was effusive in his praise of the proposed deal’s benefits for physicians.  Farrow, a pulmonologist and Mountain States board member, said a combined system could, “help us attract the best and brightest physicians to our region.” He added that a goal for the combined system would be, “to become one of the most fulfilling places in the country to practice medicine” and to be “one of the nation’s best providers of care.”

[...]

BJ: An open letter from the Chambers of Commerce

BJ: An open letter from the Chambers of Commerce

The Chambers of Commerce of Kingsport, Bristol and Johnson City/Jonesborough/Washington County endorse the proposed merger of Wellmont Health System and Mountain States Health Alliance to an integrated single system.  We believe this offers the best opportunity for the betterment of our region’s healthcare.

[...]

JCP: Mountain States CEO confirms merger in email to employees

JCP: Mountain States CEO confirms merger in email to employees

In an email to thousands of the health care system’s employees, Mountain States Health Alliance CEO Alan Levine confirmed a partnership agreement with the Johnson City-based hospital organization and neighboring Wellmont Health System, a combination that will have major effects across the Tri-Cities.

[...]

MH: Expansion erodes operating margin at Sentara

MH: Expansion erodes operating margin at Sentara

There are two candidates remaining in Wellmont’s search to merge.  One is rumored to be our Mountain States Health Alliance, the other is Sentara based in Norfolk, VA.   Modern Healthcare just reported that due to Sentara’s expansion efforts in 2013, their operating margin decreased by 20%.  This could spell trouble for our area if Sentara is selected because one likely scenario would be “Slash and Burn” cost cutting hitting our region the hardest.

[...]

WJHL: Merger partner search narrowed down to two health systems

WJHL: Merger partner search narrowed down to two health systems

Wellmont Health System announced Monday that they have narrowed the field of potential alignment partners to two.

[...]

WJHL: Tri-Cities leaders call for more transparency in Wellmont merger

WJHL: Tri-Cities leaders call for more transparency in Wellmont merger

As Wellmont Health System moves toward its self-imposed deadline of selling its hospitals by the end of the year, a growing number of community leaders tell News Channel 11 enough is enough, when it comes to confidentiality.

[...]

COMMUNITY VOICES

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

What would likely happen if Wellmont sells to another hospital system from outside our area?

We fear turning control of one of our largest job creators to an organization located somewhere else.  We also fear that if Wellmont sells or “partners” with an out of region system, Mountain States Health Alliance will, at some point, be forced to do the same thing.  Once we lose local control of our health care systems, we will have no say and will be subject to the whims of whatever the outside system wants to do.  What will we do if they close services that are not profitable?  What will we do if they decide they need to lay off 10% of their workforce because they have cash flow problems in a market somewhere else?  Once we lose local control, it is gone.

What would happen if Wellmont and Mountain States merged? Would healthcare prices go up?

NO!  Actually, healthcare prices in our region will decrease thanks to a Wellmont-MSHA merger.  A local combination could lower the cost of healthcare services by as much as $125 million over time.  Plus, we will be protected from price gouging by a law called Certificate of Public Advantage (COPA).

However, if a big company from another area merges with Wellmont, there is no such law to protect us from major premium increases.  Imagine all the potential hospital layoffs an outside system will make in order to increase their profits – and they will have no one to answer to locally!  Just ask the people of Belhaven, North Carolina what happened to their local hospital after it was acquired by a big company from another area.

Does a combination of Wellmont and MSHA create a monopoly?

NO!  Hospital competition is not the same as traditional business free market competition.  In mid-populated areas like East Tennessee and Southwest Virginia, there is not enough demand (patients) to warrant the supply (multiple hospital systems).  As a result, prices are often driven UP due to the cost of competition.  This help explains why Wellmont and MSHA are currently the most expensive hospital systems in Tennessee.

The state can issue a Certificate of Public Advantage (COPA) when the advantage to the public outweighs the benefit of competition, much in the same way as public utilities are regulated.  This was recently accomplished in North Carolina when Mission Hospital and St. Joseph’s Hospital were permitted to merge in Asheville, NC.  When COPA is awarded, pricing would be fixed based on the agreement.  This means a merger between the two systems will not result in an increase in costs.

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TAKE ACTION

STEPS YOU CAN TAKE

  • Attend a Community Event

    Let your voice be heard at a community event.

  • Sign the Petition

    Sign the Digital Petition or click here to download the printable petition.

  • Talk to Your Friends

    Talk to your friends about the issues.  It is your community and your health, so it should be your healthcare system.

  • Stay Informed

    Read the press articles and blogs and visit this website often for updates.

UPCOMING EVENTS

SIGN THE PETITION

SaveYourHospitals

Dear Wellmont Board of Directors:

We, the citizens of East Tennessee and Southwest Virginia, petition Wellmont Health Systems to be transparent and forthcoming with any merger or acquisition plans with another healthcare system. We want open discussion and a healthy dialogue between Wellmont leadership and our community.

A merger or acquisition will have a significant impact on our region. These changes could have several negative consequences including:

Potential layoffs of Wellmont employees

Possible negative economic impact of many small businesses in our region as they may not be able to provide insurance for their employees

Lost synergy with Quillen College of Medicine and Gatton School of Pharmacy which could diminish future research and additional jobs

Effect on efficiencies in areas of specialized medical services such as cancer treatment, pediatrics, trauma, and cardiac care

Lack of control and accountability to our community if another healthcare system outside our region were to merge with or acquire Wellmont

We request the Wellmont Board of Directors to fully understand and consider what is in the best interest of the local community and to be transparent and forthcoming with any merger or acquisition plans.

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153 signatures

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