JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. - It's been a challenging first eight months on the job for Mountain States Health Alliance CEO Alan Levine.
"We had big Medicare cuts amounting to $30 million per year for the system," Levine said. "Plus big declines in volumes. It was like a perfect storm."
But Levine tells us Mountain States weathered the storm, and now things are looking much sunnier. In fact, he says, patient volume, including admissions, surgery and outpatient care, has been on an upswing. "It started with about two to three percent growth in February and it's grown to about a six percent growth last month," Levine said.
Levine says Mountain States has implemented a five-year financial plan, including investing a quarter of a billion dollars of capital back into facilities, plus a process to retire its debt. "We're very comfortable that we have a very disciplined plan," Levine said.
Levine says that plan also doesn't include plans for any sell off or merger right now, despite a trend toward consolidation in the industry and recent rumors of any possible future merger with Wellmont, Mountain States' chief healthcare competitor. "We'd prefer to remain a locally-governed enterprise," Levine said. "That said, it would not be responsible to say that we're ruling anything out, because we can't predict what the future might hold."
Levine says he'd rather focus on Mountain States' immediate future. He tells us it's not about getting bigger -- their priority is the best patient care possible. "I think we're on the right track," Levine said. "I feel very good about the engagement of our team members and I think the results are showing some real promise."
We contacted Wellmont today for this story and spokesman Jim Wozniak issued this statement: "We are exploring a variety of paths for the future, including the possibility of alignment with other like-minded health systems. We are using a very clear set of guiding principles to help our decision making. However, because of the confidentiality required at this stage, we are not at liberty to share specifics about those who have expressed interest or to speculate about potential results. No matter the direction we take, our board's goal is to ensure we are able to continue meeting the region's healthcare needs for many years to come."