Two systems with 19 hospitals across several states in southern Appalachia are pledging up to $450 million in community benefits if authorities in Tennessee and Virginia allow their proposed merger to go forward.
Wellmont Health System, headquartered in Kingsport, Tenn., and Mountain States Health Alliance of Johnson City, Tenn., detailed the offer in a pre-submission report, which is required as part of the regulatory approval processes in both states.
Wellmont, a six-hospital system that serves Tennessee and Virginia, and Mountain States Health Alliance, a 13-hospital system that serves Kentucky, North Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia, promised to make investments in six areas over the next decade.
The areas include improving community health, enhancing healthcare services, expanding healthcare choices and access to care, enhancing healthcare value, investing in health research and education, and attracting and retaining a strong workforce, the systems said in a joint news release.
“The dollar investments are important, but what makes this model truly unique is the fact that we're making an enforceable commitment to direct the financial efficiencies created by the new organization toward improving community health,” said Alan Levine, president and CEO of Mountain States.
The combined systems would spend $75 million in population health improvements; at least $140 million expand community-based mental health services, including residential and outpatient addiction recovery programs; $85 million on developing academic and research opportunities; and up to $150 million for the implementation of a common information technology platform to support health information exchange throughout the region, according to the plan.
The merger still faces a number of regulatory hurdles. After a short public comment period on the document released Thursday, Wellmont and Mountain States will file formal applications with the Tennessee Department of Health and a cooperative agreement with the Southwest Virginia Health Authority. Those are expected this month.
The review process is expected to extend well into the summer. If approved by Tennessee and Virginia, both will supervise the new organization and enforce the commitments made in the plan, according to the press release.
The two systems last June promised the public the chance to comment on the proposed merger.