The announcement that partnership talks had fallen apart between Barnabas Health and Atlantic Health System after two years of discussion is not a total loss, according to Atlantic Health President and CEO Joseph Trunfio.
Trunfio said the two sides “left on good terms” when deciding to leave the negotiating table, and the detailed analysis has left him with a “greater understanding of what opportunities are available.” He did not rule out reopening discussions in the future.
The cause for the dissolved negotiations is two pronged, according to Trunfio: concern over antitrust regulations and the timing related to other opportunities for both systems.
“If you take the three core hospitals — Morristown, Overlook and St. Barnabas — the concern was that that would provide such a dominant market force that it might be opposed by the federal government and by insurers because it might limit where doctors and patients could go for service … and drive up the cost of health care,” Trunfio said. “You could potentially control the market with little competition.”
“It’s not so much that St. Barnabas and we were out of sync, but the things in our market” had poor timing, Trunfio said. “We each have a number of opportunities going on simultaneously going on with our discussions, and some of those timelines are not in our control.”
Barnabas Health declined to comment.
In the midst of the two-year discussion period with Barnabas, Trunfio said, Atlantic Health had responded to requests for proposals from St. Clare’s Health System, Chilton Hospital, Hackettstown Regional Medical Center and Hunterdon Medical Center. While St. Clare’s decided to work with the Ascension Health Care Network, Atlantic Health is still being considered as a partner for the three other facilities.
“People believe that scale and an expanded geographic footprint makes sense when you do population management,” Trunfio said, adding that health care systems that want to participate in accountable-care programs need to have a full continuum of patients, similar to insurers. “Everyone has been talking with everyone.”