Sentera Healthcare and Cone Health are merging together to become an $11.5 billion not-for-profit healthcare system.

Cone Health and Sentara Healthcare to merge into $11.5 billion system

August 17, 2020
by John R. Fischer, Senior Reporter
Cone Health and Sentara Healthcare have inked a deal to merge with one another into an $11.5 billion not-for-profit healthcare system.

The two regional, community-based health systems signed a letter of intent to become an integrated organization that expands the geographic footprint of both and offers patients more options for insurance plans and affordable access to healthcare.

“We have a keen focus on expanding upon our successful value-based care models, increasing our robust integrated health insurance options, building innovative technology platforms to increase patient access points — both digitally and virtually, growing our community impact to create meaningful change, and ultimately tackling the toughest challenges in healthcare,” Howard Kern, president and CEO of Sentara Healthcare, told HCB News.

The new health system is expected to provide high-level care and access to top hospitals and other sites of care for patients. Sentara Healthcare and Cone Health plan to invest capital into facilities, programs, tools, and technologies for greater care and increased access. Its health plans and clinically integrated networks will also continue to promote better health outcomes and reduce healthcare costs for improved access. They will also make the new organization more competitive by providing patients with more choices, and improving affordability and health outcomes.

Kern will lead the combined organization from the Norfolk headquarters, while Greensboro will serve as the regional headquarters for the Cone Health division. Cone Health CEO Terry Akin will serve as president of the Cone Health division, and health insurance plan headquarters will be set up in both Greensboro and Norfolk.

Cone Health and Sentara Healthcare currently serve different communities that do not overlap with one another. Based in Greensboro, Cone Health brings to the table five North Carolina hospitals that employ more than 13,000 people, including close to over 600 physicians and advanced practice providers. It also operates more than 100 care sites and has a Medicare Advantage health plan, HealthTeam Advantage, which serves 15,000 members.

Sentara Healthcare is an integrated not-for-profit system with a home base in Norfolk, Virginia, and is made up of 12 hospitals in Virginia and Northeastern North Carolina. It employs more than 12,000 physicians and advanced practice clinicians, 30,000 team members, and operates hundreds of sites of care. Its Optima Health Plan and Virginia Premier Health plan have 858,000 members throughout Virginia, North Carolina and Ohio.

“Our objective in this merger is to maintain, enhance and grow the hospitals, clinics, physicians’ offices, and other ambulatory sites we currently operate,” said Kern. “This merger will build on our continued efforts to bring the highest possible quality and improve affordability across our communities. It will allow us to bring more care, services and relationships to more people.”

The Cone Health Board of Trustees voted unanimously to move forward with the letter of intent. Cone Health representatives will join the Sentara Healthcare board, with membership on all board committees and meaningful roles in all aspects of governance. A Cone Health Regional Board will also continue to function and be composed of community members, medical staff and Sentara Healthcare representation.

No changes will be made currently for patients, physicians, staff or health plan members at Cone Health and Sentara Healthcare, and patients at both can expect the same level of care from the same doctors and staff at the same locations they visit today.

The combination and integration of both organizations is expected to take up to two years. The merger is subject to state and federal review and customary closing conditions, and should be formalized by mid-2021.