Certificate of Public Advantage, Cooperative Agreement Applications Filed by Wellmont, Mountain States
Joint Board Task Force adds three new community members
KINGSPORT and JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (February 16, 2016) – Wellmont Health System and Mountain States Health Alliance today have filed applications for a Certificate of Public Advantage (COPA) in Tennessee and a cooperative agreement in Virginia that would enable the two organizations to unite, creating a new health system uniquely designed to improve health and manage health care cost growth in the region.
Both applications include a copy of the definitive agreement between the two health systems, which was unanimously approved by the boards of both organizations and signed on Monday by Roger Leonard, chair of the Wellmont board of directors; Barbara Allen, chair of the Mountain States board of directors; Bart Hove, president and CEO of Wellmont; and Alan Levine, president and CEO of Mountain States. The definitive agreement is a binding legal document that outlines how the two health systems would unite their operations upon approval by the states.
In filing these applications with the Tennessee Department of Health and the Southwest Virginia Health Authority, the proposed merger enters a formal review phase by regulators in Tennessee and Virginia. This process is expected to extend into the late summer of 2016 but may take longer depending on the review processes in both states. Mountain States and Wellmont leaders anticipate an ongoing dialogue with both states throughout the process.
“As we embark on this next phase, we welcome the opportunity to work with officials in Tennessee and Virginia as they review our applications,” said Allen. “We have invested a tremendous amount of work into gathering community and internal feedback, reviewing best practices, and carefully crafting our applications according to the criteria in the state statutes.”
“The filing of these applications and the unanimous approval of the definitive agreement demonstrate our excitement for the proposed merger and the good it will provide for our region,” said Leonard. “When we announced our plans in April 2015, we believed we could be better together. Now, nearly a year later, we are enthusiastic to see our proposed plans taking shape into an innovative organization that will positively impact the health of our region for generations.”
Following statutes that exist in both states to allow state-supervised mergers of this kind to proceed if the public benefits outweigh any disadvantages, each application addresses subjects such as the organizational structure of the proposed system and commitments to improve the region’s health, expand access to care and stem the pace of health care cost growth by reducing negotiated rates and placing caps on rates moving forward.
A required pre-submission report released in January summarized much of the content in the state applications. This report, posted on www.BecomingBetterTogether.org, invited public feedback and continued an ongoing conversation with local stakeholders and community members about the merits of the health systems’ proposal. The COPA and cooperative agreement applications outline details of community engagement efforts and feedback received from groups and individuals, including nearly 60 supportive letters from employers, community organizations and other leaders in the area.
The COPA and cooperative agreement applications, including the definitive agreement, are now posted on the Better Together website, www.BecomingBetterTogether.org for public review. People who want to learn more about the proposed merger and have an opportunity to ask questions are encouraged to visit the site frequently for updates.
Expansion of the Joint Board Task Force
Under terms outlined in the definitive agreement, Wellmont and Mountain States have expanded the Joint Board Task Force to include two new community members and the president of East Tennessee State University. This task force, which currently consists of an equal number of representatives from both organizations, acts as a liaison and provides information and guidance about developments in the proposed merger process.
Joining the task force are Dr. Brian Noland of ETSU, David Golden of Eastman Chemical Company and Scott Niswonger of Landair Transport, Inc. and the Niswonger Foundation.
Noland became ETSU’s president in 2012, having previously served as chancellor of the West Virginia Higher Education System. During his tenure with ETSU, Noland has launched a major initiative to build a performing arts center and initiated a successful plan to field a football team. He also established the Committee for 125, which guided a year-long visioning process in advance of ETSU’s 125th anniversary in 2036. In addition to his leadership on campus, Noland is a member of the board of directors for The Chamber of Commerce serving Johnson City, Jonesborough and Washington County.
Golden is senior vice president, chief legal officer and corporate secretary of Eastman Chemical Company, which is based in Kingsport and has worldwide operations. He has been a valuable member of the Fortune 500 company during his 20 years of service and has steadily risen through the ranks to positions of increasing responsibility. Among his many civic endeavors are membership on the Governor’s Council for Judicial Appointments, the advisory board of Western Governors University Tennessee, the board of directors for the State Collaborative on Reforming Education and the board of directors for Networks – Sullivan Partnership.
Niswonger is the founder of Landair Transport Inc. and chairman emeritus of Forward Air Corp. He is also a highly regarded philanthropist via the Niswonger Foundation, making a positive and sustainable difference in education and other areas of importance to the community. He is the chief benefactor of Niswonger Children’s Hospital, where he continues to be involved in developing health care resources and ensuring access to quality specialty care for children of all ages.
The Joint Board Task Force will continue to oversee work on plans for integrating the two organizations’ operations, cultures and shared vision while health system officials continue their dialogue with state officials over the coming months.
About Wellmont Health System
Wellmont Health System is a leading provider of health care services for Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia, delivering top-quality, comprehensive health care, wellness, and long-term care services across the region. Wellmont facilities include Holston Valley Medical Center in Kingsport, Tenn.; Bristol Regional Medical Center in Bristol, Tenn.; Mountain View Regional Medical Center in Norton, Va.; Lonesome Pine Hospital in Big Stone Gap, Va.; Hawkins County Memorial Hospital in Rogersville, Tenn.; and Hancock County Hospital in Sneedville, Tenn. For more information about Wellmont, please visit www.wellmont.org.
About Mountain States Health Alliance
Since 1998, Mountain States Health Alliance has been bringing the nation’s best health care close to home to serve the residents of Northeast Tennessee, Southwest Virginia, Southeastern Kentucky and Western North Carolina. This not-for-profit health care organization based in Johnson City, Tenn., operates family of 13 hospitals serving a 29-county region. Mountain States offers a large tertiary hospital with level 1 trauma center, a dedicated children’s hospital, several community hospitals, two critical access hospitals, a behavioral health hospital, two long-term care facilities, home care and hospice services, retail pharmacies, a comprehensive medical management corporation, and the region’s only provider-owned health insurance company. The team members, physicians and volunteers who make up Mountain States Health Alliance are committed to caring for you and earning your trust. For more information, visit www.mountainstateshealth.com.