North Carolina AG Requesting More Info On Hospital Merger

Feb 15, 2018

North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein is requesting more information on the merger of Atrium Health, formerly known as Carolinas Healthcare System, and UNC Health Care.

North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein.
Credit JOSH STEIN

In a letter to the chief executives, Stein expressed his concern that the combined health care system's services would be a burden on the public if the merger goes forward.

"My priority is to look out for North Carolina's health care patients,” Stein said in a statement. “When large health systems merge, patients and businesses often end up paying more. I intend to make sure that doesn't happen here."

In the letter, Stein wrote he has received little information on the possible effects of delivering cost-friendly health care post-merger.

"Experience cautions that large-scale health system mergers are often not in the public interest," Stein wrote. "The State and the public have a right to know the facts behind your proposal."

Stein is requesting that additional documents be filed to his office by March 16 under the state law regarding monopolies and consumer protection.

The documents he's seeking include information about the proposed merger dating back to January 2015, meeting minutes and other internal communications about the proposed merger, draft and final media communications, and documents pertaining to insurance reimbursement rates from each hospital Atrium has acquired since January 2007.

Back in August, Atrium Health chief executive Eugene Woods said the combined hospital network would allow for more resources for research and medical education.

“Together, we believe we can drive research opportunities that advance new discoveries in innovation to find cures and really fundamentally change the way care is delivered,” Woods said.

Woods and William Roper, the chief executive of UNC Health Care System, also said a joint company would give them more leverage in the health care market to negotiate on prices, like pharmaceutical and medical devices.

In a statement, UNC Health Care said it would cooperate with Stein's office and the Department of Justice "in a timely and transparent manner."

"We are still negotiating some of the details of our proposed partnership with Atrium Health (formerly Carolinas HealthCare System)," UNC Health Care wrote. "As we have stated on many occasions, UNC Health Care’s goals in pursuing this partnership are to improve the health of all North Carolina’s citizens, increase access to much-needed medical care and reduce rising costs.

Atrium Health also says it will cooperate with the attorney general's office.

"As teams from Atrium Health and UNC Health Care are negotiating the remaining details of the joint operating agreement, our goal remains as it always has – to improve the health for North Carolinians by increasing access and affordability, advancing clinical care and contributing to our state’s economic vibrancy," Atrium said in a statement.

In addition to the merger, Atrium Health has plans to expand into Georgia, where Macon-based Navicent Health will join its health care system.