Wellmont, Mountain States Issue Statement About Filing of Southwest Virginia Health Authority Report

Mountain States Health Alliance and Wellmont Health System wish to express our gratitude to the Southwest Virginia Health Authority. These are people who know our region, understand the challenges we face and bring tremendous expertise to the authority.

While we only just received the document provided by the authority to the commonwealth, we can say that this document reflects significant due diligence and presents a clear and convincing case for why the authority, as an independent statutorily created body, voted unanimously to recommend the proposed merger for approval.

The members of the authority gave due consideration to opponents of the proposed merger from outside the region, including FTC staff members and a powerful national insurance company and its paid Washington and state-level lobbyists. Importantly, the authority also gave consideration to dozens of employers, many of them self-insured and who will be impacted most by the proposed merger, who represent thousands of their employees and their families and who actually pay for the health care services provided by Mountain States and Wellmont. These local employers were overwhelmingly in favor of the proposed merger. Everyone had an opportunity to be heard, and the arguments were made in public.

As public discussion took place, these comments were used to improve the commitments originally offered by Mountain States and Wellmont. Therefore, we appreciate the views of the critics of the proposed merger, and we assure them that, while we may not agree with their conclusions, we are listening to credible points of view we believe make the proposal better. Evidence of this exists in the report, where it is acknowledged we agreed to additional commitments, changes to the commitments and an improved system of measurement.

This process has been transparent, with deliberations made publicly. We are truly grateful for the integrity of the process, and we all owe a debt of gratitude to chairman Kilgore, attorney Jeff Mitchell, the independent consultants and the members of the authority who have worked so hard – not just on this issue, but every day, to make Southwest Virginia a better place.

Importantly, while we strenuously disagree with FTC staff members’ analysis of the proposed merger, and their arguments, we do genuinely appreciate the work they do. We believe they have it wrong with respect to our region, but we take seriously their commentary.

We look forward to working with the commissioner of health as she commences her review of the record, and we look forward to implementing the promises of the proposed merger.

As Dr. Richard Brownlee, one of the health authority’s consultants, said, “The decision that is made by the authority’s board will affect the lives of real people, with real families, who live in real communities here in Southwest Virginia.”

He stated this immediately before the authority voted unanimously to recommend the proposed merger.

We agree.

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