Tennessee health officials approve COPA for Wellmont-Mountain States merger


Tennessee Department of Health Commissioner John Dreyzehner announced Tuesday that the request for a Certificate of Public Advantage from Wellmont Health System and Mountain States Health Alliance has been granted.

The approval allows the two entities to combine under the corporate umbrella of Ballad Health.

"This has been an unprecedented and complex process, and I appreciate the time, effort and resources everyone involved has put into making it a productive one," Dreyzehner said. "I also appreciate the legal expertise and guidance of the Attorney General and his staff as we've put into place measurable goals and terms and conditions to ensure that in granting approval, there is a clear public benefit to the health and well-being of residents of the region."

"Wellmont and Mountain States engaged in a lengthy application process and thorough review form the department and our office," Attorney General Herbert H. Slattery III said. "We appreciated how Wellmont and Mountain States assisted our office and the department during this process and certainly want to acknowledge the commitment of the community leaders to reach this point. Everyone's objective is to employ a new idea, a new structure to fundamentally improve the health of the region. We wish them great success."

The COPA request remains under review in Virginia and the deadline for that is September 30.

Mountain States and Wellmont sent the following joint statement:

The proposed merger between Mountain States Health Alliance and Wellmont Health System reached an important milestone on Tuesday with approval of the systems' Certificate of Public Advantage (COPA) application by Tennessee officials.

Tennessee Commissioner of Health John Dreyzehner announced the decision Tuesday morning following the department's review of the health systems' commitments to protect rural access to care, invest in needed healthcare services, reduce the pace of healthcare cost growth and establish regional programs to improve population health. Both Mountain States and Wellmont delivered certificates of acceptance to the state after unanimous votes of both systems' boards of directors.

According to the terms of the COPA, the systems have 90 days to complete the merger, a period of time during which Mountain States and Wellmont will complete the legal work to form Ballad Health. Virginia officials are set to render their decision on the systems' cooperative agreement application by the end of the month.

"We believe this merger will result in sustaining high quality healthcare for our region, will reduce the growth in costs and will create one of the nation's leading health systems," said Mountain States President/CEO Alan Levine. "We are grateful our state leaders see the public benefit of our proposal, and we applaud the state for the time they took throughout this process. But ultimately, our greatest appreciation is extended to our boards, our team members, our physicians and our community leaders who have provided input, guidance and support. The intended outcome of this merger will only happen if we sustain that support."

"We are energized and excited about what the future holds for Ballad Health and the people we serve in Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia," said Wellmont President/CEO Bart Hove. "We're thankful to have the opportunity to work with state officials in both Tennessee and Virginia to help make our vision for better health in our region a reality."

Under the leadership of the Integration Council, formulated at the beginning of the merger planning process, 17 functional teams consisting of representatives from both organizations have been meeting to help prepare the systems for integration, which is expected to take place in early 2018.

Ballad Health has committed to make significant investments to improve the health of our region, to advance academics and research, to improve children's healthcare, and to strengthen and better align rural healthcare offerings. Community members interested in more information about Ballad Health's vision should visit