The merger between Emory University’s health care assets and WellStar would create the biggest nonprofit health system in Georgia, and one of the largest in the nation.
The potential combination was announced Feb. 9. Officials said initial talks would continue for 45 days, under a resolution passed by each organization’s board.
Completing a merger would take a year or more, leaders of each organization said.
A merger would combine Emory’s academic health system with WellStar’s expertise in running community hospitals. It would also create a system with reach across Atlanta and into the northwest suburbs, where WellStar dominates.
Leaders of each organization emphasized that a goal was to create a new entity that would deliver the highest quality of care.
Georgia Watch, in its letter, cited a 2012 study from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation that found that hospital consolidation generally results in increased prices.
Hospital consolidation has emerged as major trend in Georgia and the nation. The number of mergers or acquisitions nationally has doubled since 2009, according to a Journal of the American Medical Association opinion article.
Experts say mergers and alliances are driven by the economic environment in health care, which is being shaped, in part, by changes from the Affordable Care Act.