UNC Health Care And Atrium Health Break Off Partnership Talks

Mar 2, 2018

UNC Health Care CEO Dr. Bill Roper, left, and Atrium Health CEO Gene Woods in August, 2017.
Credit UNC Health Care

UNC Health Care and Charlotte-based Atrium Health called off a proposed partnership.

In August, the sides announced plans to join clinical, medical education and research resources. On Friday, they broke off those talks.

"Atrium Health has suspended discussions with UNC Health Care to form a joint operating company," according to a statement released by Atrium. "Atrium Health Board of Commissioners Chairman Ed Brown and Atrium Health President and Chief Executive Officer Gene Woods informed UNC Health Care’s leadership in a letter sent earlier today."

UNC Health Care released a similar statement: "After months of discussions and due diligence, UNC Health Care and Atrium Health have determined that we cannot satisfy our mutual organizational goals through a proposed partnership and joint operating company."

On Thursday afternoon, UNC Health Care CEO Dr. Bill Roper updated a committee of the UNC Board of Governors, which oversees the University of North Carolina System, including UNC Health Care, on partnership talks. Afterward he spoke with reporters. While he offered no specifics on what he said in the closed session meeting, he did for the first time publicly acknowledge that a partnership possibly wouldn't happen.

"If we can find ways to be mutually comfortable on this, we are going to have an agreement. If we can't, we won't. It's as simple as that," Roper said Thursday.

The full statement provided by Atrium Health.
Credit Atrium Health

Fewer than 24 hours later, the deal would be called off.

Full statement submitted from UNC Health Care
Credit UNC Health Care

N.C. Treasurer Dale R. Folwell had expressed concerns about what he called the lack of transparency during deliberations between the two health care systems. The state treasurer oversees the State Health Plan, which provides health care coverage to almost 730,000 state employees and retirees, including teachers. Folwell had recently asked representatives of UNC Health Care to provide the State Health Plan with a $1 billion performance bond guaranteeing that any merger with Atrium Health would not increase medical costs for the plan and North Carolina taxpayers.

"I've consistently said that I am about 'k-n-o-w,' not 'n-o.' It's now obvious that many others agreed there was a lack of transparency surrounding the proposed UNC/Atrium merger," Folwell said in a statement. "We never acquired enough information to ensure that the combination of these two health care entities would not have a negative impact on the taxpayers of North Carolina. I was also concerned that this proposal involving billions in state assets never came before the Council of State, whose primary function is to review the disposition of state property."

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina, the state's largest health insurer, had come out against the combination of health systems, saying it feared a health system of that size would be able to raise prices on patients. BCBSNC did not immediately release a statement Friday afternoon.