NOW: Virginia officials approve agreement for Mountain States-Wellmont merger
UPDATE, 3:42 p.m.
Officials with Wellmont Health System and Mountain States Health Alliance have issued a joint statement in response to the Virginia Health Commissioner approving the merger between the two health care providers:
"We have received notice of the decision of the Commissioner of Health in Virginia, and we are reviewing it. We are grateful for the diligence demonstrated by the Commissioner and her staff, and the staff of the Virginia Attorney General's office.
"The Commissioner personally took the time to evaluate our proposed merger and to understand the reasons why the benefits of the proposed merger outweigh the other options. We believe the Commissioner is committed to ensuring that the people of Southwest Virginia will be well served.
"We also applaud the Southwest Virginia Health Authority and its highly qualified consultants for their role in evaluating the benefits of the proposed merger as well as the improvements that were made to our commitments based on the Authority's input. We look forward to working with the commonwealth and the Authority to address the health care challenges of our region.
"We also appreciate the role the FTC plays in protecting the public, and we believe the concerns voiced by the FTC were considered both by the Authority and the Commissioner, both of which have acted in accordance with federal law. We are now intensely focused on the operational integration of the two systems and plan to close in the next few months."
A spokesperson from the Federal Trade Commission contacted by News 5 on Monday said the agency had no comment on the Virginia approval.
Virginia officials have approved an agreement for the merger between Mountain States Health Alliance and Wellmont Health System.
The approval allows the two entities to combine under the corporate umbrella of Ballad Health. Tennessee officials approved the merger last month, despite the Federal Trade Commission's opposition to the merger.
Wellmont CEO Bart Hove and Mountain States CEO Alan Levine have both fended off criticism about the merger, following the Federal Trade Commission's formal opposition to the merger last year.
The Federal Trade Commission is against the merger in both Tennessee and Virginia saying the lost competition will increase prices among other concerns. Levine and Hove both contend the FTC's stance is based on flawed and incomplete information.
"Their mission is to protect competition, which flies in the face of policy in Tennessee and Virginia which says there may be something better than competition in some cases," Levine said.
The official letter outlining the approval of the COPA is available by clicking here.