State To Hold Two Hearings Wednesday On Prime's Offer To Buy Saint Clare's

NJBIZ — Thursday, April 2, 2015

By Beth Fitzgerald

The state of New Jersey will hold two hearings next Wednesday on whether to approve the offer by California-based Prime Health Care to acquire the Saint Clare's Health System.

The two April 8 hearings will be: 12:30 p.m. at the Denville municipal building, and 6 p.m. at the Hilton Garden Inn in Rockaway Township.

The hearings are being convened by the state Attorney's General office, which is reviewing the sale of Saint Clare's under the Community Health Care Assets Protection Act, which regulates the transfer of assets by nonprofit health care organizations.

Prime acquired St. Mary's Hospital in Passaic last August and also is seeking to acquire Saint Michael's Medical Center in Newark. A study commissioned by the state of New Jersey and conducted by Navigant Consulting concluded that the Newark area has surplus hospital beds and recommended that Saint Michael's and two other area hospitals cease to operate as acute care hospitals and be converted into modern outpatient facilities.

The Prime purchase of Saint Clare's has already cleared a major hurdle: Last August, the state Health Planning Board recommended that the sale be approved by state Health Commissioner Mary O'Dowd.

India Hayes Larrier of New Jersey Citizen Action is a spokesperson for the stakeholder coalition Campaign to Protect Community Health Care. She said the group wants the state to require Prime to keep Saint Clare's open for at least 10 years, maintain current health care services, keep charity care at current levels and remain in-network with health insurance providers. She said health insurance network coverage is critical "in light of the fact that more people now have health insurance" as a result of coverage expansions under the Affordable Care Act.

Asked to assess the impact so far of Prime's acquisition of St. Mary's, Larrier said "one thing they did that I have been encouraged by is they have negotiated and signed contracts with many of the health insurance companies."

Four of the state's major health insurers confirmed that St. Mary's Hospital is in their network: Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey; UnitedHealthcare; Cigna; and Aetna.

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