Rush, Little Company of Mary in deal to merge
Little Company of Mary Hospital & Health Care Centers has signed a letter of intent to join Rush, the Chicago-based academic hub that's been looking to bulk up.
The deal, which must be approved by state regulators, marks Rush's expansion to the south suburbs and Little Company's exit as an independent hospital, shrinking the number of stand-alone hospitals in the region even more.
Little Company is a small, longtime Catholic staple that's been searching for a partner. The hospital will remain Catholic, while Rush's three other hospitals will remain secular.
Rush, a three-hospital network that includes flagship Rush University Medical Center on the Near West Side, two west suburban hospitals and a medical university, has been looking to woo partners. Earlier this year, the system rebranded itself as Rush to officially operate as one academic health system.
Consolidation has been heating up in the Chicago area as hospitals and health systems look to expand their reach for a host of reasons.
For one, insurers are paying hospitals to focus on prevention instead of for each service they provide, which can lead to unnecessary care and rack up the bills. But that's time-consuming and expensive to do, often requiring the resources of a bigger health system.
Here's another reason: More patients these days have health insurance plans with sizable deductibles they must pay before insurers start to cover a portion of their medical bills. Many of these patients are skipping out on their bills, causing debt to pile up at hospitals. That's prompted hospitals, including Advocate Health Care and Edward-Elmhurst Health, to announce big cuts to rein in spending.
EVERYTHING ON THE TABLE
Little Company put out a formal call for proposals in late 2016. Everything was on the table, from a merger to a looser affiliation. At the time, a hospital spokeswoman told Crain's that Little Company was searching for a partner in part because of a push industrywide toward outpatient care and a need to work more closely with physicians to focus on prevention.
The hospital, which has a strong partnership with another academic system, UChicago Medicine, is just 2 miles east of much larger Advocate Christ Medical Center along busy 95th Street.
For Rush, Little Company not only would extend the Rush brand to a new region. The deal also would provide a steady referral stream of patients who can stay close to home for routine care, but head downtown to Rush University Medical Center when they need more specialized treatment.
"Little Company of Mary Hospital is a great organization with deep roots in the community and would be a strong partner as Rush continues to expand the system's reach throughout the Chicago area," Michael Dandorph, president of the Rush system and of Rush University Medical Center, said in a statement. "This potential partnership is very important to our overall plans to make clinical, research and educational resources more accessible to our patients and our physician partners."
Added Sister Sharon Ann Walsh, American Province Leader of the Little Company of Mary Sisters and chairwoman of the Little Company hospital board of directors: "Our sisters have been involved in a long and thoughtful discernment process, and we feel confident that aligning with Rush would allow us to continue to serve our community, as we have for nearly 90 years. We have a longstanding bond with our community because of the unwavering commitment of our dedicated physicians, other medical professionals and the devotion of our employees. We look forward to the potential of a stronger future with Rush and the expanded capabilities that we would be able to offer our patients."
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