Carle merger gains support

About 60 people attended a meeting hosted by the Illinois Department of Public Health that discussed the proposed merger between the Carle Foundation Hospital and Carle Clinic Wednesday at Urbana City building.

The merger would allow for the Carle Foundation to purchase Carle Clinic.

Because the hospital is a non-profit organization, if the merger occurs the clinic would change from a profit-based organization to a non-profit organization. With the merger, Carle Clinic would adopt the financial assistance policies of the hospital, according to a press release from the Champaign County Health Care Consumers. The hospital’s non-profit status makes it tax-exempt and with the merger, this would also apply to Carle Clinic, said Dr. James Leonard President and CEO of Carle Foundation Hospital.

Leonard said that while the clinic will become tax-exempt under the merger, it will continue paying property taxes.

The merger’s main benefit is that it will make health care more accessible to the community, he added.

“This proposal will enhance the availability and quality of the community’s safety net services,” Leonard said. “The safety net ensures essential health care services are available for all, including persons unable to afford needed care, uninsured persons, and Medicaid enrollees.”

However, some voiced concerns over whether the new Carle co-op would accept all forms of health insurance.

Community member Christina Nelson said she wants to make sure the new Carle entity recognizes her insurance, which she has through the Illinois Comprehensive Health Insurance Plan.

“There’s a whole group of vulnerable people who have insurance, but the wrong kind,” Nelson said.

Marty Smith, Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Carle Foundation, spoke about how the merger would help the community.

“Integration will extend Carle Hospital’s Community Care Discount Program to physician services and will create access to Carle-quality care for more people,” he added.

Dr. Bruce Wellerman, President and CEO of Carle Clinic Association, also said he was in favor of the proposed merger.

“The hospital and clinic are natural partners for integration,” Wellerman said. “We have long collaborated to provide high quality care, advanced technology and patient centered services. Only complete integration will allow us higher levels of cooperation through the organization.”

Wellerman said one benefit of integration is greater transparency of medical information to all providers caring for patients. He added that the merger would reduce patient confusion and decrease administrative burden and cost.

Many others spoke in support of the proposal, including Lyn Jones, CEO of the United Way of Champaign County and Brad Schwartz, Dean of the College of Medicine.

For the merger to occur, it must be approved by the Illinois Health Facilities and Services Review Board. In December, Carle Clinic physicians will vote whether to sell to the Foundation. If they approve the sale, more meetings will be held to finalize the details of the merger.

The merger would then need to be approved by the state legislature in March. If approved, the merger would take effect in April 2010.