- Associated Press - Sunday, February 12, 2017

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) - Some people see the potential merger of MidDakota Clinic and Sanford Health as part of a national trend of integration in health care.

Brad Gibbens, deputy director of the University of North Dakota’s Center for Rural Health, tells the Bismarck Tribune (https://bit.ly/2kOyFTr) that one of the biggest shifts under the Affordable Care Act is how providers are now relying on results-based pay rather than volume-based pay.

That means hospitals are reimbursed more when patients are successfully treated and don’t have to be readmitted later. Gibbens said that’s resulted in the acceleration of integration and merging of health care providers, given the focus on lowering costs but increasing quality of care.

“So for Sanford to want to pull in more providers is not surprising,” Gibbens said. “On the surface, it sounds like it makes sense.”

Sanford Health says no updates are available on acquisition talks with MidDakota.

Amid efforts to replace the Affordable Care Act, Gibbens said, the effects will depend on whether lawmakers retain the merit-based payment system.

Another longstanding problem has been the health care workforce availability, and Sanford could address that through acquisition. MidDakota is multidisciplinary, employing more than 90 practitioners, which could expand the base of doctors Sanford can draw from.

The benefit for MidDakota doctors would be the ability to cut costs by taking advantage of Sanford’s administrative capacity.

Gibbens also noted there is “security in numbers in a volatile health care market.”

CHI St. Alexius did some integrating in 2014, when it joined the Catholic Health Initiatives system. At that time, CHI executive Jeffrey Drop said the affiliation gave St. Alexius access to resources and doctors at other CHI locations. Kevin Lofton, CEO of CHI, said the partnership allowed both organizations to operate “more efficiently in light of health care reform.”

St. Alexius President Gary Miller said health care delivery “is in a state of transition and change,” and that the affiliation with CHI would help it continue its mission “while providing the opportunity to deal with the new challenges in a collaborative and coordinated way.”

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Information from: Bismarck Tribune, https://www.bismarcktribune.com


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