NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WJHL) — Community members will have their first chance since January 2020 to comment in person about the state regulations governing Ballad Health at a public hearing June 12 at Northeast State Community College.
Representatives from the Tennessee Department of Health (TDH) and the state attorney general’s office will be on hand, and a court reporter will record the hearing, which is scheduled from 5:30-7 p.m. at the college’s performing arts center, 2425 Highway 75 in Blountville.
TDH and the AG’s office worked together to craft a “Certificate of Public Advantage” (COPA) and terms of certification (TOC) governing the COPA when Wellmont Health System and Mountain States Health Alliance first sought permission to merge in 2015. Ballad Health was formed in January 2018 after final approval.
The COPA is designed to mitigate anticompetitive effects from the merger, which essentially created an inpatient monopoly in the region and would have been challenged by the Federal Trade Commission if not for the COPA.
The hearing “will include a formal process for the public to comment on Ballad Health’s compliance with the Certificate of Public Advantage (COPA) and to discuss revisions to the Terms of Certification under the COPA,” a TDH news release states.
Those documents, and the state’s active supervision of the COPA, are designed to ensure the benefits created by the merger outweigh its anticompetitive effects. From spending commitments and pricing limits to wages, they center around access to care, affordability of care, quality of care and improved health of the overall population.
Members of the public can speak for up to three minutes each if they sign in when they enter the auditorium. The timeline could allow for close to 30 speakers.
The COPA and TOC are very complex and specific documents, and some comments delivered at previous public hearings didn’t address specific elements of Ballad’s commitments and requirements. While such comments will be recorded in the minutes, they are unlikely to have any impact on the state’s oversight, which must be limited to items in the TOC and COPA.
The release does mention revisions to the TOC. The second set of revisions to the TOC became official July 1, 2022. A summary of the changes is here and the overall TOC is here.