CEO: Merger brings WellSpan to key point
WellSpan Health will cross a critical threshold later this year when it completes its merger with Summit Health in Franklin County.
WellSpan will be serving roughly 1 million people in a territory stretching from Lancaster and Lebanon counties in the east to Franklin County in the west.
It is a population figure that could help WellSpan devise better ways to deliver care, said Dr. Kevin Mosser, president and CEO of the health system.
“To really figure out how to drive down the cost of care, you need to have a sufficient population that you’re doing clinical services on to be able to analyze your care and compare it appropriately to national norms,” Mosser said during an interview April 18 at WellSpan’s York Township headquarters. “A lot of people think it should be at least a million, and some people think more, but the absolute minimum would be a million.”
Health systems wring out operating costs in the short-term by merging into larger organizations, he said. And in some cases, struggling hospitals join larger systems to gain more leverage, raising the prices they can charge insurers.
But the longer-term play in health care is to analyze patterns of care and figure out the best ways to keep a large population healthy overall, for example, by keeping people out of the hospital.
“That’s a five- to 10- year project, in my mind, until you are humming on all cylinders,” he said, dismissing critics who argue it should be happening faster.
“I’m pretty confident that over time, and it’ll be after my time as CEO, but over time we’re going to see more efficiency from having larger, more coordinated systems working across larger populations,” he said.
Mosser sat down with the Business Journal to discuss WellSpan’s merger with Summit Health, which is expected to be completed by fall. Here is his take on that and other topics in health care.
The two health systems have a longstanding working relationship, Mosser said.
WellSpan partners with Summit to provide neurology services in Franklin County and collaborated with the Franklin County system to open a neonatal intensive care unit at Chambersburg Hospital in 2016. WellSpan also provides radiation oncology and perinatology services in Summit’s territory.
A deeper union appealed to WellSpan as a way to bring in talent and extend its geographic reach, Mosser said.
The two organizations have not decided on a new name for Summit Health, Mosser said. But whatever is picked will include Summit.
“It has tremendous brand recognition,” Mosser said, adding: “We’ll be introducing the WellSpan brand in the market, but the final look and feel we haven’t determined yet.”
Other changes also may come to Franklin County, just as WellSpan made investments in Lebanon and Lancaster counties after taking over hospitals there.
Mosser envisioned growth in outpatient and specialty services and a move to modernize Summit’s emergency department in Waynesboro.
But overall, he felt few major improvements were needed.
“One of the great benefits of this merger is we don’t have to change very much,” he said. “Summit is doing a fabulous job.”
On price transparency
Doctors and hospitals have weathered increasing criticism for not being upfront about the prices consumers can expect to pay for care, especially as consumers shoulder more of the costs under high-deductible plans.
WellSpan has been taking steps to be more transparent, Mosser said, thanks to recent integration of its information technology systems.
Patients today can call in and get an estimate of their care’s cost. “That’s like 1960s stuff, but at least it’s an advance,” Mosser said.
Now, the health system’s online team is working to create an online price estimator, which should be available in 12 to 18 months, Mosser said.
On Medicaid contracting
The Pennsylvania Department of Human Services has been trying to bring on new managed care insurers to cover people enrolled in the state Medicaid program, known as Medical Assistance.
But legal challenges have hampered the bidding process, which began in 2015. Most recently, a state court ruled that the department had violated Pennsylvania’s procurement code, leaving existing insurers in place and likely forcing the department to start the bidding process over again. The insurers cover physical health care under a program known as HealthChoices.
The delays have been frustrating to WellSpan, Mosser said. They hinder the health system from collaborating with insurers to develop products for people on Medical Assistance. As of February, roughly 185,000 people were enrolled in HealthChoices in Adams, Lancaster, Lebanon and York counties, according to state figures. There are nearly 23,000 in Franklin County.
“They are the most vulnerable people we take care of,” Mosser said.
But because money for their care goes first to insurance companies, WellSpan needs a partner with which it can build a system for managing that care.
“We can’t do that because we don’t know who we’re going to be dealing with,” Mosser said.
About WellSpan Health
Headquarters: York Township, York County
Founded: 1880 (as York Hospital; became WellSpan Health in 2000 after merger of Gettysburg Hospital and York Health System)
Hospitals: WellSpan York Hospital, WellSpan Gettysburg Hospital, WellSpan Good Samaritan Hospital, WellSpan Ephrata Hospital, WellSpan Philhaven, WellSpan Surgery & Rehabilitation Hospital