HCA Healthcare has signed a definitive agreement of $1.5 billion to buy Western North Carolina nonprofit health system Mission Health. Under the agreement, Mission properties will become part of the future Dogwood Health Trust. The deal is still pending approval of the North Carolina attorney general.


Mission Hospital in Asheville, N.C.

The Nashville-based HCA Healthcare is no stranger to healthcare services. They operate 178 locally managed hospitals and 1,800 sites of care, including surgery centers, freestanding ERs, urgent care centers and physician clinics in 20 states and in the United Kingdom. If the proposed transaction moves forward, the proceeds will go to the newly created nonprofit Dogwood Health Trust which serves as Mission’s successor foundation. Their purpose is to use those funds to improve the health and well-being of the people and communities of western North Carolina. Healthcare Dive reports Dogwood Health Trust would "enable significant investments, encourage partnerships and facilitate coordination with others to analyze, understand and address core social determinants of health and well-being for the people and communities of Western North Carolina."

The first announcement for the proposed deal was made in March, and raised some concern for North Carolina residents who worried about the impact of a large for-profit company taking over a non-profit mission. According to North Carolina Health News, some residents were concerned about the Dogwood Health Trust’s ability to control the terms of HCA in coming years, and others worried about the potential loss of rural hospitals that may be minimized in order to make a profit.

In 2018, there have been 30 healthcare systems mergers across the nation. HCA Healthcare and Mission is counted as one of the major acquisitions. The agreement states that HCA will acquire the 763-bed Mission Hospital in Asheville; 80-bed CarePartners Rehabilitation Hospital in Asheville; 49-bed Mission Hospital McDowell in Marion; 25-bed Angel Medical Center in Franklin; 25-bed Transylvania Regional Hospital in Brevard; 25-bed Blue Ridge Regional Hospital in Spruce Pine; and 24-bed Highlands-Cashiers Hospital in Highlands.

Mergers such as this are often trumpeted as a cost-saving measure, but a recent study from the National Bureau of Economic Research shows that this is not the case. Consolidation raises costs for patients, and only about 1.5% of total costs are saved by the health systems after the deal. The AARP noted in a past article that while hospitals typically maintain they are merging or affiliating for greater efficiency, higher quality of care and increased savings, the most common consequence for patients is higher prices for medical care, according to several decades of research. If there’s one thing North Carolinians do not need, it’s paying higher prices for healthcare.

Thoughts on this merger? Do you use the Mission healthcare system and are concerned about the potential acquisition? Let us know in the comments or join the conversation on our Facebook page.

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