Q: What exactly is happening between Conemaugh Health System and Somerset Hospital?
The Conemaugh Health System and Somerset Hospital Board of Directors have signed a Letter of Intent to develop a collaborative relationship. Over the next few months, leadership from both Conemaugh and Somerset will come together to develop an operating agreement that will define a partnership, or "joint venture," to collaborate on physician practice development. When launched early in 2014, our community will find services easier to access, with improved continuity of care.
Q: Does this mean that the Conemaugh Health System is going to purchase Somerset Hospital?
No. Conemaugh Health System and Somerset Hospital are agreeing to work together in the delivery of healthcare services, in a way that both puts the patient first, and is financially responsible. Somerset Hospital will remain an independent community hospital.
Q: Is this whole thing a done-deal or could additional change occur?
While both Hospital Boards of Directors have approved this Letter of Intent, it is non-binding until the completion and approval of the Definitive Agreements. Everyone is fully committed to this collaboration and we expect it to be completed within a few months.
Q: Will Conemaugh Health System or Somerset Hospital cut departments, jobs or other costs as a result of this collaboration?
Nationwide, hospitals are feeling tight financial pressure, resulting from legislative mandates, declining reimbursement and utilization. In turn, Conemaugh Health System and Somerset Hospital will remain focused on financial responsibility regardless of this collaboration. Ultimately, this model supports job retention.
Q: Will there be any more changes with hospitals in our region?
The trend toward hospitals working together rather than competing against one another is not going away. The evolution of healthcare is making this necessary, particularly for community hospitals. Ultimately, the people of the region win when resources are used to expand rather than duplicate services. So, in the future you'll likely see greater collaboration of healthcare services in general, rather than less.
Q: Will this change impact the insurances that are accepted by Somerset Hospital?
No. Somerset Hospital will remain an open access hospital, accepting the same insurances that they do today. We do not expect collaboration to impact participating insurance providers with whom we currently have contractual agreements. This includes Highmark and UPMC.
Q: Is this decision a result of the Affordable Care Act?
The Affordable Care Act (ACA) seeks to expand access to healthcare for many Americans, through insurance coverage. Ultimately, this is positive. Various legislative mandates, decreasing levels of reimbursement, declining population and utilization have created pressure for all healthcare providers in Western Pennsylvania. The ACA was not a critical driver in this particular decision; overall community benefit was a driver.