In his opinion, John Suthers, the Colorado attorney general, responded to public demand for greater guarantees before the deal could proceed. Suthers set new stipulations on HCA's $1.45 billion deal for HealthOne, including a guarantee that seven acute-care hospitals must remain open for at least five years.
“These requirements will not only ensure that those that rely on the HealthOne hospital system will continue to have access to quality health care, but they also will leave intact the programs that have made these hospitals an invaluable asset for the community,” Suthers said in a news release announcing his decision.
A group of former directors of the foundation or its predecessor organizations that has argued against the sale is evaluating its options, according to one of these critics, Richard Anderson. "This transaction clearly places addiitional burdens on the users of hospital services through either increased costs or a reduction of services in order to provide financial rewards to those beyond our community," Anderson wrote in an e-mail.
The Colorado Center on Law and Policy, which has supported the sale but urged more conditions on it, is generally pleased with the changes, according to its executive director, Christine Murphy.
HealthOne, a joint venture created in 1995 between HCA and the Foundation, operates Denver-area hospitals and ambulatory surgery centers.
Suthers also required that a community board of trustees and HealthOne's indigent care and community benefit programs must continue for 15 years, rather than the 10 years originally proposed, according to Suthers' opinion (PDF). Indigent care and community benefit programs may be altered during years 11 through 15 by a majority of trustees.
The stipulation also requires $12 million for community benefits to compound annually. The attorney general's opinion calls for the rate to be set at the rate of increase in the Medicare reimbursement rate for 10 years.