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New Community Hospital Owners: The Only Changes Will Be Improvements

Eric Whitney

The sale of Missoula Community Medical Center became official today. The $75 million deal took effect one minute after midnight, and hospital executives celebrated later at a press conference.

The new owners are Billings Clinic and Tennessee-based RegionalCare Hospital Partners.

Marty Rash, CEO of RegionalCare says the deal should expand medical offerings on both sides of the continental divide.

“Billings Clinic and Community Medical Center together can start to look at some sub-specialization that maybe individually they couldn’t provide to the state, that wasn’t economically feasible before,” Rash says.

Rash expects eight to twelve new sub-specialties being offered as a result of the deal.

The sale changes Community from a non-profit to a for-profit.

"I wouldn’t say [a for-profit hospital is] better,” Rash says. “What it does is, it gives you some additional resource.

“Everybody has gotten good care here in the past. The system, though, is changing rapidly. So having the combined resources of Billings and RegionalCare helps. It’s just more tools, if you will.

“The idea that we'll be able to share some physicians that neither one could afford by themselves, that's important. From a capital standpoint we're able to form capital easier because we have access to equity that a not for profit doesn't have access to."

While the sale of the hospital is now final, what will happen to the $75 million sale price is still up in the air. By law, proceeds from the sale of a non-profit have to go into a charity with a similar mission. Community’s board has proposed putting most of the money into a new health care foundation, and giving $10 million to the University of Montana Foundation. Attorney General Fox says he needs more time to study the proposal, including potential conflicts of interest. He says he’ll issue a decision by February 27th.

Eric Whitney is NPR's Mountain West/Great Plains Bureau Chief, and was the former news director for Montana Public Radio.
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