I wish to state my concern about the article covering the benefits of the merger of Montana Deaconess Medical Center and Columbus Hospital, both in Great Falls, Mont., to form Benefis Healthcare ("Monopoly is for the Benefis of none," Feb. 8, p. 17). The article failed to point out pertinent facts about the merger results and carried a misleading headline.
The merger has in fact greatly benefited residents of Great Falls and the surrounding service area. But the story failed to mention that the price of healthcare paid by consumers after the merger is 24.5% less than what those services would have cost before the merger. This figure takes into account inflation during that period and the fact that Benefis instituted a 17% price reduction early in the merger.
Area residents are benefiting from the increased access that the lower costs provide and Benefis Healthcare's transition to being the lowest-cost provider of any of the large hospitals in Montana. Our average patient charges per patient day are 19% to 45% less than the charges of any other large hospital in the state.
The article also does not point out that the merger led to a reduction of more than 200 full-time-equivalent jobs and
decreases of $5.4 million from our annual nonwage operating costs and of $6.3 million in cost avoidance. The story failed to say that the certificate of public advantage, as the first instrument of its kind, was fully intended to provide for changes.
The changes Benefis is requesting will not reduce the tremendous benefit this merger has brought to area residents or increase prices. They will place the hospital on a track of fiscal stability while continuing to move us toward the cost-reduction targets outlined in the COPA.
President, chief executive officer
Great Falls, Montana