Public hearing on Ballad Health's annual report scheduled for Feb. 7

Zach Vance • Updated Jan 16, 2019 at 8:03 PM

The Local Advisory Council, created under the Certificate of Public Advantage, or COPA, will conduct a hearing on Feb. 7 to give the public an opportunity to comment on Ballad Health’s annual report.

The hearing will begin at 5 p.m. in the Northeast State Community College Center for the Arts, 2425 Highway 75 in Blountville. The meeting is required to comply with COPA’s Terms of Certification, which governs the Ballad Health merger.

Those wanting to provide comments on the report and progress of the COPA can sign in upon entering the center’s auditorium and will speak in order of signing, according to a Department of Health press release. Each person will have three minutes to speak, and a court reporter will be in attendance to record the hearing.

Those unable to attend the hearing can submit written comments via email to [email protected] or by mail to the COPA Local Advisory Council c/o Tennessee Department of Health-COPA, 710 James Robertson Parkway, Nashville, TN 37243.

Additionally, the COPA Local Advisory Council’s originally scheduled meeting for Jan. 22 has been postponed due to scheduling conflicts, the press release stated. That meeting will be rescheduled for a later date.

On Jan. 31, 2018, the Tennessee Department of Health issued a COPA to Ballad Health, effectively allowing the merger of Mountain States Health Alliance and Wellmont Health System under state supervision.

In making the decision, Commissioner of Health John Dreyzehner determined the benefits of the merger outweighed the loss of competition, a threshold that was required statutorily under the COPA law, which protects Ballad from federal anti-trust scrutiny.

In May 2018, Dreyzehner selected nine people to serve on the Local Advisory Council, just one of the merger’s oversight components required under the COPA.

The members of that committee include:

•  Chairman Doug Varney, former commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services;

•  State Rep. David Hawk;

•  Dr. Linda Latimer, member of East Tennessee State University’s board of trustees;

•  Gary Mayes, director of the Sullivan County Health Department;

•  Dr. Jerry Miller, founder of Holston Medical Group;

•  Dennis Phillips, former mayor of Kingsport;

•  Dan Pohlgeers, former provider and current medical administrator and consultant with Sunesis Medical;

•  Dr. Karen Shelton, director of Mount Rogers Health District, Virginia Department of Health; and

•  Dr. Brenda White Wright, former CEO of Girls Incorporated.

The council is required to advise the state on how to spend the Population Health Initiatives Fund, the account that Ballad Health must pay into fines accrued for violating the COPA and certain past-due monetary obligations. However, the Tennessee commissioner of Health has the power to veto, approve or modify any recommendations made by the council.

The council must also review the amount of cash owed and deposited into the Population Health Initiatives Fund.

For more information about the Certificate of Public Advantage, visit www.tn.gov/health/health-program-areas/health-planning/certificate-of-public-advantage.html.

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