COPA Index Advisory Group to Begin Work

Monday, March 14, 2016 | 01:47pm

Community Citizens Involved in Proposed Hospital Systems Merger Discussions

NASHVILLE – A group of citizens representing northeast Tennessee, appointed by Tennessee Department of Health Commissioner John Dreyzehner, MD, MPH to advise on matters pertaining to the proposed merger of two hospital systems, will have an organizational meeting Tuesday, March 15. The meeting is scheduled to begin 5:30 p.m. Eastern time in the Northeast State Library in Blountville.

Following upcoming public listening sessions in different communities, the advisory group will recommend measures to be considered for an index to track the impact, including potential advantages and disadvantages, were a Certificate of Public Advantage to be granted to Mountain States Health Alliance and Wellmont Health System. The advisory group’s work is one important element of efforts by the Tennessee Department of Health to make determinations under the Tennessee COPA statute and rules.

The two systems submitted to the Tennessee Department of Health Sept. 16, 2015 a letter of intent to seek a COPA, followed by a pre-submission report Jan. 7, 2016 and the application for a COPA Feb. 16. TDH responded to the pre-submission report Jan. 25, requesting clarification of several issues. TDH staff members continue to review the application while they wait to receive additional information from the applicants not included in the 2,578 pages of application material submitted to TDH. Material yet to be received by TDH includes financial and other information considered by the applicants to be either confidential or competitively sensitive.

Under Tennessee law, TDH shall issue a COPA for a cooperative agreement if TDH determines the applicants have demonstrated by clear and convincing evidence that the benefits resulting from the agreement outweigh any disadvantages attributable to a reduction in competition that may result from the agreement. In addition to TDH and the Tennessee Attorney General having responsibility for state laws, the Federal Trade Commission also has authority to ensure compliance with federal law. This is the first time the Tennessee statute has been used to evaluate a proposed merger of hospitals.

While the Tennessee COPA statute has existed since 1993, it has not been previously used for this purpose. Rules governing the process were first issued by the Tennessee Department of Health as emergency rules July 14, 2015, and were made permanent Jan. 4, 2016.

Members of the advisory group include Chair Gary Mayes, director of the Sullivan County Regional Health Department; State Representative David Hawk of Greene County; State Representative Matthew Hill of Washington County; Unicoi Mayor Johnny Lynch; Susan Reid, executive director of the First Tennessee Development District; George Brewer, administrator of Hancock Manor Nursing Home in Hancock County; Brent Kelch, executive director of Highland Physicians, Inc. in Sullivan County; Teresa Kidd, PhD, president and CEO of Frontier Health in Washington County; David Kirschke, MD, medical director of the TDH Northeast Tennessee Regional Health Department; Minnie Miller, former director of Johnson County Schools; Erika Phillips, coordinated school health director for Hawkins County; Chantelle Roberson, assistant general counsel for Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Tennessee; Perry Stuckey, senior vice president and chief human resources officer for Eastman Chemical Company; Jan Tillman, APN, RN, nurse practitioner with Roan Mountain Rural Health Consortia in Carter County; Thomas J. Wennogle, president of JardinZinc in Greene County; and Brenda White, EdD, former CEO of Girls Inc. of Kingsport.

At the Tuesday organizational meeting, advisory group members will meet for the first time with TDH staff to discuss their upcoming efforts to gather information from a variety of stakeholders.  The advisory group members, in future public listening sessions, will seek perspectives and recommendations regarding population health, access to health services, economic impacts and other subjects.

To see a list of the upcoming public listening sessions for members of the general public and other stakeholders to voice their thoughts on the proposed merger to the advisory group, visit 

Those who are unable to attend one of the listening sessions may provide input by email or regular mail to or to the Tennessee Department of Health – COPA, 710 James Robertson Parkway, Nashville, TN 37243.

The mission of the Tennessee Department of Health is to protect, promote and improve the health and prosperity of people in Tennessee. TDH has facilities in all 95 counties and provides direct services for more than one in five Tennesseans annually as well as indirect services for everyone in the state, including emergency response to health threats, licensure of health professionals, regulation of health care facilities and inspection of food service establishments. Learn more about TDH services and programs at