Behind Wellmont Health's Search for a Partner

John Commins, for HealthLeaders Media , January 22, 2014

By a flip of the pen one way or the other, millions of dollars of revenue can be taken or diminished. If we were 10% Medicare and 5% Medicaid as a payer mix, that would be a different conversation. Medicare makes up over 50% of our payer mix and Medicaid makes up 13% and we have 9% or so in complete no pay. When you have that sort of a payer dynamic, it also is more subjected to these types of changes that have come very rapidly and don't allow you enough time to change your infrastructure to respond to it.

HLM: Are you concerned about the funding status for rural hospitals?

DeNarvaez: We had to close one of our rural facilities for a combination of issues. Probably more significant than the financial losses, although they were significant, was the inability to recruit and retain physicians. That is a growing issue because our economic challenges regarding what the government is going to do also translate into physicians who don't wish to work in an environment where they don't know from one day to the next what their economic challenges are going to look like.

And frankly even if they are employed by the health system, they also know the health system would have to make dramatic changes if disproportionate share went away. That would be a significant crisis for many hospital systems, not just our own. And the rural facilities are by far the most impacted in those discussions because there is a heavier concentration of Medicaid.

HLM: What is your timetable for some sort of partnership?

DeNarvaez: This month we will send a (request for proposal) to three financial advisor firms. In short order we will make a decision as to which one will be our advisor for this second phase. They will help us determine a list. I don't know if that list will have two candidates or 10 candidates. We will have a small group from the board and myself doing our homework to interview those folks and make sure we are talking the same talk and that we are interested in one another and interested in the same things about one another.

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