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MU Health Care doesn't rule out future legislation for hospital sale

MU Health Care doesn't rule out future legislation for hospital sale

March 3rd, 2019 by Joe Gamm in Local News

St. Mary's Hospital sits on Mission Drive. SSM and MU Health announced in August they were negotiating the possible sale of SSM Health's St. Mary's Hospital in Jefferson City and Mexico (the former Audrain Medical Center) and their associated clinics, following SSM's decision to leave the Mid-Missouri marketplace.

Photo by Kris Wilson /News Tribune.

As the deadline for filing bills in the Missouri General Assembly came and went this week, MU Health Care leadership said it would not seek legislation this session that would enable it to purchase properties owned by SSM Health, the St. Louis-based Catholic nonprofit health system that owns St. Mary's Hospital in Jefferson City and in Mexico.

SSM Health and University of Missouri Health Care announced in August they had been in exclusive negotiations to transfer ownership of the hospital and other properties for some time.

The sides currently remain in the "due-diligence" phase of negotiations, in which both parties are looking to see how the sale would fit into their missions.

But, opponents to the plan have said the merger would run up against Missouri's anti-trust laws.

And questions have been raised about whether the sale would have to be approved through legislative action. Although the parties didn't seek legislative support this year, they haven't ruled it out down the road.

Jesslyn Chew, the MU Health Care public relations manager, said negotiations are "progressing positively."

"Given that due diligence is still under way, we have chosen not to seek enabling legislation in the 2019 legislative session," Chew said Friday. "The scale of this transaction is large, and ample time is required to ensure the complex work is completed."

Additionally, Jonathan Curtright, chief executive officer of MU Health Care, has said even if the purchase is approved by both sides, it still would have to go up the University of Missouri chain to the Board of Curators for approval.

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MU Health Care also has told legislators they chose not to seek legislation this session, according to Rep. Dave Griffith, R-Jefferson City.

"They have a number of steps they need to do on their end before they can do anything (in terms of closing the sale)," Griffith told the News Tribune. "They're going to hold off until a later date."

It's unclear if the health care provider has chosen a legislator to sponsor enabling legislation, he added.

Griffith and other legislators, such as Sen. Mike Bernskoetter, R-Jefferson City, said that in any case, they don't know enough about the potential sale, yet, to make informed decisions about it.

"I'm open to talking with all parties involved if the sale is proposed now or in the future," Bernskoetter told the News Tribune.