Wellmont, Mountain States release public report outlining future plans

(WJHL) – Wellmont and Mountain States are sharing their future plans. The public report outlines areas where the proposed combined hospital systems will invest in health in the region.

Included in the plan is investing $75 million to meet the unique health needs of the region within 10 years; and investing $150 million to connect the information technology at  the combined hospital systems. Also, included is $140 million to expand community-based mental health services and addiction recovery programs.

The report highlights commitments for Wellmont and Mountain States in six key areas:

  • improving community health
  • enhancing health care services
  • expanding health care choices and  access to care
  • enhancing health care values
  • investing in health research and education
  • attracting and retaining a strong workforce

The following is a press release from the two hospital systems:

WELLMONT, MOUNTAIN STATES SHARE PUBLIC REPORT OUTLINING FUTURE PLANS TO IMPROVE HEALTH IN REGION

Report reflects extensive community input, describes commitments in six key areas

KINGSPORT and JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (January 7, 2016) – Mountain States Health Alliance and Wellmont Health System today released a public report outlining a series of binding commitments the proposed new organization will make about how it will operate and uniquely serve the community together. The report describes commitments in six key areas to improve health in the region.

The commitments include: improving community health, enhancing health care services, expanding health care choices and access to care, enhancing health care value, investing in health research and education, and attracting and retaining a strong workforce.

Unlike traditional mergers and consolidation, the proposed organization also commits to reduce the pace of growth in health care costs to below the national average by placing limits on negotiated rates with insurers.

“Our management teams working together continue to make very careful and deliberate progress with the proposed merger and are excited to take this next step by sharing our transformational vision, which has drawn widespread support from community, business and governmental leaders throughout our region and respective states,” said Roger Leonard, chair of Wellmont’s board of directors. “We look forward to working with officials in Tennessee and Virginia as they evaluate the report and upcoming filings so this process can reach a successful conclusion. We appreciate their engagement and willingness to provide the framework that will produce an innovative, nationally recognized model that will promote improved health and quality of life for our families, friends and neighbors.”

The pre-submission report, required by the regulatory approval processes in Tennessee and Virginia, precedes the filing of applications for approval of the proposed merger in both states.

“The path we are pursuing is an innovative model unlike the traditional mergers that are common among hospitals and providers today,” said Barbara Allen, chair of the Mountain States board of directors. “We believe our proposed alternative is better. It is the only model that maintains local governance, provides an enforceable commitment to limit pricing growth, keeps hundreds of millions of dollars in our region and invests those dollars in the improved health of our region while preserving local jobs.”

Specifically, Wellmont and Mountain States are committing to a series of transformational investments, made possible through financial efficiencies that will be achieved with the proposed merger, in the following ways over the next 10 years:

  •         At least $75 million to invest in population health improvements to meet the unique health needs of our region through a 10-year plan to be developed with the community and the public health resources at ETSU;
  •         At least $140 million to expand community-based mental health services, residential and outpatient addiction recovery programs, and tobacco and substance abuse prevention programs as well as to further support children’s and rural health services;
  •         At least $85 million to develop and grow academic and research opportunities, support post-graduate health care training, and strengthen the pipeline and preparation of health professionals in the region; and
  •         Up to $150 million to implement a common information technology platform to support the regional exchange of health information, connect our hospitals, physicians and other caregivers, and allow the combined system to offer higher quality, more convenient and more cost-effective care for patients.

The commitments outlined in the report were developed after careful review of a variety of research and data, including the state health plans from Tennessee and Virginia, the Southwest Virginia Health Authority’s Blueprint for Health Improvement and Health-Enabled Prosperity, the two organizations’ initial due diligence, input from community meetings, local health data and statistics, projected health needs, existing services, financial data, and more.

“These commitments reflect months of extensive conversations with stakeholders across our region,” said Alan Levine, president and CEO of Mountain States. “The transformational investments outlined in this report would not be possible without the savings realized by combining our two organizations.”
Wellmont and Mountain States anticipate filing the applications for a Certificate of Public Advantage (COPA) with the Tennessee Department of Health and a cooperative agreement with the Southwest Virginia Health Authority in late January after a period of public comment on the pre-submission report. The applications will initiate the state review process, which is expected to extend into the late summer of 2016.

Should Tennessee and Virginia approve the applications and the merger becomes final, the state and commonwealth will supervise the new organization and enforce the commitments to ensure the public benefits.

“Our health systems are fortunate to have highly regarded physicians and other dedicated professionals who have enabled us to serve the region with distinction for decades,” said Bart Hove, Wellmont’s president and CEO. “Because of the investments we are committing to make, new opportunities will be created that will provide a brighter future with more opportunities for all because we will be a stronger organization together than would otherwise be the case.”

The community is encouraged to review the report and comment on its contents at www.BecomingBetterTogether.org. The website also provides further information about the proposed merger process, including frequently asked questions, news and updates and more. A summary of the commitments outlined in the pre-submission report is attached to this release.

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