Decision on Unicoi hospital sale in attorney general’s hands

Brad Hicks • Aug 27, 2013 at 7:11 AM

ERWIN — Mountain States Health Alliance’s pending acquisition of Unicoi County Memorial Hospital is now in the Tennessee attorney feneral’s hands, as written notice of the sale has been submitted to the attorney general’s office.

According to UCMH Interim CEO Jete Edmisson, the UCMH Board of Control has provided the attorney general with written notice of its intent to transfer the hospital’s health care-related assets to MSHA. According to a public notice of the sale that will be published next week, subject to the attorney general’s review, officials with MSHA and UCMH anticipate the sale’s closing will occur on or before June 1.

Tony Benton, MSHA vice president of marketing and communications, said attorneys representing the Board of Control hand-delivered documentation relating to the pending sale to the attorney general’s office in Nashville on Thursday afternoon. Since the board voted late last month to accept MSHA’s final definitive agreement to acquire UCMH, attorneys had been working on the documentation. Benton said this documentation includes the signed final agreement, an application and around 2,000 to 3,000 pages of additional documentation.

“It’s a pretty significant undertaking,” Benton said.

From this point, the attorney general will review the documents, and once this review is “deemed complete,” meaning the office has received adequate documentation, the attorney general’s office will have 45 days to review the acquisition process, Benton said. This 45-day period can be extended. MSHA President/CEO Dennis Vonderfecht previously said the attorney general’s office will be looking primarily at two items during its review of the acquisition process — if a fair price was paid by MSHA to acquire UCMH and if the process that led to MSHA’s acquisition was followed from a legal standpoint.

Benton said MSHA officials do expect additional questions from the attorney general’s office to possibly clarify or verify key points of the process, adding that this is typical. Because of this, he said there is no time frame on when the process may be deemed complete by the attorney general, but officials expect it to be reasonable as UCMH is continuing to spend money from the line of credit previously extended to the hospital by MSHA.

“I wouldn’t anticipate that it would be more than a matter of a few days or maybe a couple of week at the most, but that is speculative,” Benton said.

Once the review is complete and the office requests no additional information, it will either object to the sale or take no further action, the latter of which would signify the deal’s closing.

Board of Control Chairman Roland Bailey said he views submission of the notice of the sale as the third step in a five-step process, with the remaining two steps being answering any questions the attorney general may have and awaiting completion of the office’s review. UCMH is set to become the 14th hospital in the MSHA system.

Benton said ongoing contract negotiations between MSHA and BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee will not impact services offered or coverage at UMCH after the transaction’s closing. He said this is because UCMH has a separate contract with BlueCross that will remain in place after completion of the sale.

This contract runs through the end of 2014, Benton said.

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