Tennessee Department of Health Commissioner John Dreyzehner, MD, MPH, in consultation with Tennessee Attorney General Herbert H. Slatery III announced Thursday the Certificate of Public Advantage, or COPA application from Mountain States Health Alliance and Wellmont Health System is now complete.
The last significant piece of information necessary to deem the application complete was a plan of separation proposing steps to be taken if key benchmarks are not met and the COPA, if granted, would have to be terminated. The applicants submitted their plan of separation Sept. 9 (see the updated plan at bjournal.com/separationplan).
“We appreciate the work of Mountain States and Wellmont to provide the necessary information to finalize the merger application,” Dreyzehner said. “Receiving this information is an important step in the COPA application and review process, and now that the application is complete, we will carefully review the proposal to determine whether it ultimately provides a public benefit to Tennesseans.”
By statute, the department is charged with determining whether the likely benefits of the proposed merger would outweigh by clear and convincing evidence any disadvantages caused by a potential reduction in competition in the region.
Those benefits include improvements in health outcomes, health care costs and access to services in the region. The department has 120 days to carefully review and determine if the application meets this clear and convincing standard that the proposed merger between the two systems will provide an overall public benefit to the people of northeast Tennessee.
While the application has been deemed complete in Tennessee, the department will have more detailed questions and will likely need to request additional information from the parties as the COPA process continues. TDH will continue to work closely with the Attorney General and his team throughout this review process, drawing on the expertise and insight they bring to what is a complex and important process.
The department is currently developing an index that details a preventive approach to care and healthier outcomes that the COPA will require. Recommendations developed this spring by the COPA Index Advisory Group after a series of regional listening sessions will be used to help develop the index.
Because this process is complex and precedent-setting for the state, the department is holding a series of public hearings to allow citizens to provide comments and suggestions.
“Having conversations now about regional health, standards of care, accessibility and affordability of services will help shape Tennessee’s future healthcare delivery systems,” Dreyzehner said.
The public is invited to provide written comments on the application through the department’s website until Nov. 15. Additional public hearings are scheduled in Nashville, Bristol and Johnson City. Find the meeting schedule and location information, along with instructions for sharing comments on the COPA process at tn.gov/health/article/certificate-of-public-advantage-how-to-comment.