TDH holds public forum on MSHA, Wellmont COPA; FTC voices opposition

Published 8:35 pm Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Another step forward.
Representatives of the Tennessee Department of Health held a public forum in regards to the pending merger of Mountain States Health Alliance and Wellmont Health System Tuesday evening at the Northeast Tennessee Community College campus in Blountville in regards to both systems Certificate of Public Advantage (COPA) application.
With over five public forums, TDH Commissioner John Dreyzehner said Tuesday’s showcased a variety of opinions.
“I think it’s about on par with the comments we heard from our previous meetings,” Dreyzehner said following the hearing. “The comments were rich, deep and I thought very heartfelt. We heard from folks that were at previous public meetings, and we also heard some new comments. This is a very big decision. It’s very helpful to hear from all the constituents.”
TDH deemed the COPA application complete May 22 and is now compiling information before a September 19 deadline whether or not to approve the application from both health systems.
Throughout the evening, several individuals took to the podium to express their thoughts on the merger.
Washington County Mayor Dan Eldridge was one of the supporters of the merger but alluded to the fact a local voice is needed in the decision. Teresa Kidd, president and CEO of Frontier Health, also expressed her support due to Frontier Health’s work alongside both health system. Representation from East Tennessee State University also showed positive reviews for the merger.
While support rein in, concern was presented from opposition against the merger, including Alexis Gilman with the Federal Trade Commission.
Gilman stated the FTC issued a statement against the pending merger, citing more disadvantages than advantages and that the loss of competition could impact the region.
Dreyzehner indicated that Tuesday’s public hearing could possibly be the last unless another hearing is needed for an issue. The department will move forward now to determine the benefits of a merger would be more than the disadvantages including geographic service area population health, regional health outcomes, health care costs, quality, and access.
“I think there are strong opinions in this room, our job is to do what’s best for Tennessee and its citizens,” the commissioner said, adding several individuals within the department are working toward compiling the information for the best decision.
Tennessee and Virginia both are now in the process of going through COPA processes before a potential merger and creation of Ballad Health could occur.
Individuals can online to learn more about the process and provide their input on the merger.

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