Charlotte-based Atrium Health announced Wednesday that they are merging with Midwest-based Advocate Aurora Health. The combined health systems, which will be headquartered in Charlotte, will be known as Advocate Health, although both entities will keep their current names in their local markets. Advocate Aurora has a dual headquarters in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and Downers Grove, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago. They will continue to maintain a presence in those areas.
According to a news release, the newly combined health system will operate more than 1,000 care sites and 67 hospitals across Alabama, Georgia, Illinois, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Wisconsin. The system will serve 5.5 million patients, employ more than 7,600 doctors and 150,000 teammates, and their combined annual revenues will be more than $27 billion. Atrium has said in a report that the combination will create the fifth-largest health system by revenue in the U.S.
“This strategic combination will enable us to deepen our commitments to health equity, create more jobs and opportunities for our teammates and communities, launch new, game-changing innovations and so much more,” Eugene Woods, Atrium’s chief executive officer, said in the news release announcing the merger.
“Together, we can do more, be better and go faster,” said Jim Skogsbergh, president and chief executive officer of Advocate Aurora Health, in a statement. “This combination harnesses our complementary strengths and expertise of our doctors, nurses and teammates to lead health care’s transformation for those we are so proud to serve.”
Goals in the deal include a $2 billion pledge to disrupt the root causes of health inequities across both rural and urban underserved communities, a pledge to achieve carbon neutrality by 2030 and promising to create more than 20,000 new jobs across the communities they serve.
This is the fourth merger for Atrium in recent years, including the latest in July 2021, when the hospital system announced it would merge with a Georgia-based system called Floyd. In 2020, it combined with Wake Forest Baptist Health, including Wake Forest School of Medicine, which led to a new four-year medical school in Charlotte. In 2018, they merged with Georgia health system Navicent Health and changed their name from Carolinas HealthCare System to Atrium.
State Treasurer Dale Folwell, a vocal opponent of such mergers in the past, doesn’t mince words with Atrium’s proposed merger, citing that it raises many red flags. He said research consistently shows mergers and acquisitions do not deliver on hospital executives’ promises, but instead trigger higher costs, reduced access and the same or lower level of care.
“With independent hospital and physician practices increasingly on life support, more mega-mergers are the wrong prescription for the health care industry,” Folwell said in a statement. “Consumers of health care, and the taxpayers who pick up the tab for tax-exempt, multibillion-dollar investment companies disguised as nonprofit hospitals, which are run by multimillionaire executives, ultimately will pay the cost of this ill-advised merger.”
Folwell said the Federal Trade Commission, U.S. Department of Justice and the N.C. Attorney General’s Office all have broad authority over hospital mergers, and he encourages them and the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services to exercise diligent oversight and conduct a vigorous examination of this merger.