Oct 26, 2020 - Health

Intermountain, Sanford hospital systems plan to merge

Intermountain Medical Center hospital building at dusk.
Intermountain and Sanford control 70 hospitals across the West and Midwest. Photo: Intermountain Healthcare

Intermountain Healthcare and Sanford Health have agreed to merge, creating a system of 70 hospitals, hundreds of physician practices, and two health insurance companies across the West and Midwest, pending state and federal regulatory reviews.

Why it matters: A combined Intermountain-Sanford system would generate $15 billion of annual revenue, making it bigger than BlackRock or Uber, and would highlight how hospital systems are still pushing to consolidate despite the coronavirus pandemic.

Between the lines: Intermountain and Sanford have both benefited from coronavirus bailout funding, registering a combined $300 million in taxpayer-funded payments, according to financial statements.

  • Intermountain and Sanford, both tax-exempt systems, have also registered operating and net profits in the first half of this year, despite the slowdown in care due to the pandemic.

What they're saying: Intermountain CEO Marc Harrison said in a statement the merger will allow the two systems to "make health care more affordable for our communities."

  • Reality check: Academic literature has consistently shown hospital mergers lead to higher prices and no improvement in care quality.

Flashback: At this year's JPMorgan Healthcare Conference, Harrison said, "We have an absolute responsibility to make health care as affordable as possible," right before Intermountain's CFO touted the system's cash surplus and patient collections.

  • Last year, Sanford also tried merging with another large regional hospital system, UnityPoint Health, before calling the deal off.
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