Sunday, July 14, 2024

Cone Health to become part of Kaiser Permanente-backed group

Greensboro-based Cone Health has signed an agreement to become part of Risant Health, a nonprofit organization based in Washington, D.C., that’s a part of Kaiser Permanente. The deal, which is pending regulatory approvals, would be the second acquisition of Risant Health, which was created last year by Kaiser Foundation Hospitals, an entity of one of the nation’s largest not-for-profit health plans headquartered in Oakland, California.

“We are so excited about this and what a difference it’s going to make in our community,” says Cone Health CEO Dr. Mary Jo Cagle


Risant Health will give Cone Health “tools and technology” that come from Kaiser Permanente’s 80 years of experience in “high-quality care at a lower cost that’s focused on prevention,” she says. She says Risant will help Cone “accelerate” what it has been trying to do in preventing strokes, heart attacks and chronic diseases among residents.

She says Kaiser Permanente’s work at bridging gaps between suburban and rural healthcare, and access to health care by poor and minority residents will help the communities Cone serves.

“The way we pay for healthcare is broken. We need to change that so more people have a better way to pay for their care and have access to that care,” says Cagle.

The deal is expected to take six to nine months to complete, Cagle says. Cone has already spoken with North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein, whose office must approve the deal. It also will need federal approval from the Department of Justice and Federal Trade Commission. Financial details will be released after the deal closes, says Cagle.

Cone Health is a nonprofit healthcare network that primarily serves a community of more than 500,000 people living in Alamance, Guilford, Randolph, Rockingham and part of Forsyth counties. Founded in 1953, it has more than 13,000 employees and more than 700 physicians, along with 1,800 partner physicians.

The health system includes a network of four acute care hospitals – Moses Cone and Wesley Long hospitals in Greensboro, Alamance Regional in Burlington and Annie Penn Hospital in Reidsville and a behavioral health facility in Greensboro. Cone Health’s Triad HealthCare Network (THN) is a doctor-led Accountable Care Organization (ACO), managing and coordinating care for nearly 200,000 patients.

Under the pending deal, Cone Health would maintain its brand, name and mission, and maintain its own board, CEO and leadership team. It would continue to work with health plans, provider organizations and independent physicians.

Cone Health customers will see the same doctors, the same nurses and the same staff in the same locations they do today, she says. “Cone Health will still be Cone Health. We know our community and what’s best, so that’s a very important part of this,” says Cagle.

Down the road, she says, patients will see improvements. For example, if someone breaks their leg, Cagle says in the future it will be easier for them to make appointments, get a referral for a specialists, get rehabilitative services, if needed. She also emphasized preventive care.

“Cone Health’s impressive work for decades in moving value-based care forward aligns so well with Risant Health’s vision for the future of health care. Their longstanding success and deep commitment to providing high-quality care to North Carolina communities make them an ideal fit to become a part of Risant Health. We will work together to share our industry-leading expertise and innovation to expand access to value-based care to more people in the communities we serve,” said Risant Health CEO, Dr. Jaewon Ryu, in a release.

Risant completed its acquisition of Danville, Pennsylvania-based Geisinger in March 2024. Geisinger, which serves about 45 counties in central Pennsylvania, was the first health system to become part of Risant Health.

Risant may be a new company, but it has the backing of Kaiser Permanente, says Cagle.

Greg Adams, chair of the Risant Health board of directors, said, “Risant Health refuses to accept that fragmented, episodic, fee-for-service care should define the future of healthcare. Risant Health has put a stake in the ground that care focused on evidence, equity, population health and improved outcomes must be the future of health care. Models like that of Kaiser Permanente, Cone Health and Geisinger will help make that possible.”

Adams also serves as chair and CEO of Kaiser Foundation Health Plan and Hospitals.

“This is an important milestone on our ‘success to significance’ journey,” said Mae Douglas, chair, Cone Health board of trustees, in a release. Douglas says the decision to join Risant had been discussed for more than a year with teams of physicians, executives and others.

This marks the second time since 2020 that Cone Health has considered a sale. In August 2020, it was announced Norfolk, Virginia-based Sentara Healthcare would acquire Cone Health. That deal was called off in June 2021.

Since then, Cone Health has talked with other healthcare groups, including some in North Carolina, about consolidation. The move with Risant was best, she says, because of its “value-based model” focusing on prevention, access and containing cost. She says this deal will also allow Cone Health to continue to work with other groups, such as a partnership it has with UNC Health to improve rural healthcare in Rockingham County.

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