- Associated Press - Monday, June 25, 2018

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) - A nonprofit health system is facing criticism over its $23.6 million deal to put its name on an Omaha convention center and arena.

Some industry experts have said CHI Health’s plans to pay for the rights to rename the CenturyLink Center is part of the advertising necessary to continue attracting patients to its facilities.

“Hospitals are increasingly seeking sponsorships that fit their business objectives to build awareness,” said Kim Mickelsen, chief executive of Omaha-based advertising firm Bozell.

But others disapprove of the Omaha-based provider’s decision to allocate millions to marketing, the Omaha World-Herald reported.

The $23.6 million plan will be paid out over 20 years from the system’s existing marketing budget.

“This is not an increase in costs that’s going to be borne by patients or employers,” said CHI Health CEO Dr. Cliff Robertson.

The health system views the deal as a community benefit and an investment in the city, Robertson said. He called the decision a “no-brainer” considering the number of national and local mentions it’ll receive through the naming rights.

“They want to be able to attract a medical staff, and having a big image helps them attract more medical specialists and other health care professionals,” said Edmund Leslie, the former public relations director for CHI’s now shuttered St. Joseph Hospital. But he said the naming rights deal doesn’t educate the public on health issues.

Dr. Ali Khan, dean of the College of Public Health at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, said CHI Health “is a wonderful community citizen in Omaha. But spending $23 million for naming rights on a building is a reminder that medicine is a business.”

Retired accountant Dan Pleiss said the deal is wasteful and that the money should go toward lowering the cost of patient care.

“This just sends a totally wrong message,” he said.

CHI Health is committed to lowering its health care costs, Robertson said. The health system allocated more than $191 million to free care and other community benefits last year, comprising almost 10 percent of its annual budget.


Information from: Omaha World-Herald, http://www.omaha.com

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