MN AG shares plans for Sanford/Fairview merger investigation

The AG is also share plans that allow for the public’s input on the merger.
Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison
Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison(MGN)
Published: Nov. 22, 2022 at 10:03 AM CST
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison announced the next steps being taken in investigating the Fairview Health Services and Sanford Health merger.

At 11 a.m. Ellison held a press conference to share the upcoming opportunities for public input into the proposed merger and the next steps in his Office’s investigation under state and federal law of the proposed merger.

The event was live-streamed on Facebook.Com and below.

Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison announced in a press conference and press release that his Office has created dedicated opportunities for public input on the recently proposed merger between Fairview Health Services and Sanford Health.

A dedicated web form where all Minnesotans may leave comments or concerns is now available on the Attorney General’s website. The form is also linked on a new Fairview/Sanford landing page at AG.State.MN.US/Sanford-Fairview. Anyone who wishes to communicate their comments or concerns by phone may leave voice mail in a dedicated mailbox by calling (651) 296-3353 (Metro area) or (800) 657-3787 (Greater Minnesota) and pressing option 2, or may speak to an analyst live by calling the same numbers and pressing option 1.

In addition, Attorney General Ellison announced that he would hold three or four public meetings around the state, most of them in communities in Greater Minnesota that would most directly experience the impact of the proposed merger. The dates, times, and locations of those meetings will be announced later and held in early 2023.

“I take my responsibility to regulate charities and nonprofits and enforce antitrust laws very seriously. In just one week since the proposed merger between Fairview and Sanford was announced, it’s sparked a lot of concern,” Attorney General Ellison said. “I’ve heard it directly from nurses and doctors, from farmers and rural communities, from other workers who are worried about their jobs, and from people from all over who have raised concerns about Minnesota charitable assets going out of state and want to make sure those assets benefit the public.

“It’s my job to listen — and we want to hear more, which is why we’ve set up dedicated new ways for all Minnesotans to share their thoughts and concerns with us about this proposed merger, and why we’ll be holding public meetings around the state early next year. We’re especially interested in hearing from people who believe they will be directly impacted by this proposed merger. But we want to hear from everyone because everyone is an expert in their own healthcare and in affording their lives,” Attorney General Ellison concluded.

This announcement comes as part of the Office’s investigation of the proposed transaction’s compliance with state and federal charities and antitrust laws. Under Minnesota law, the Attorney General is the chief civil regulator of charities and nonprofits in Minnesota and has the authority to enforce state and federal antitrust laws. Attorney General Ellison’s Office has made requests for information from Sanford and Fairview to evaluate the transaction.

If a review by the Federal Trade Commission is required, as is often the case with transactions of this size, Attorney General Ellison’s Office will work closely with the FTC in reviewing the transaction. In addition, the Office plans to work closely with the Minnesota Department of Health, which monitors compliance with Minnesota laws and rules relating to healthcare services. Under a 2021 law, MDH must also be notified within 120 days if a hospital plans to cease, curtail, or relocate any services, and MDH must hold a public hearing on those plans.

The Office will use input that the public submits to evaluate the transaction under existing laws and determine opportunities for changes or improvements to public policy, regulation, or state or federal law. Comments or information that members of the public submit as part of these civil investigations will generally be treated as “protected nonpublic data” under the Minnesota Government Data Practices Act.

The investigation is in its initial stages, and no findings or conclusions have been issued.

Background on the proposed Fairview/Sanford merger

On Tuesday, Nov. 16, 2022, Sanford Health and Fairview Health Services announced that they intended to merge in 2023. The new entity would be called Sanford Health and run by Sanford’s current CEO.

Sanford Health is based out of Sioux Falls, South Dakota, and has 47 medical centers with approximately 45,000 employees. It has Minnesota locations in mostly rural areas of Minnesota, including hospitals in Bagley, Bemidji, Canby, Jackson, Luverne, Thief River Falls, Tracy, Westbrook, Wheaton, and Worthington.

Fairview Health Services is based in Minneapolis and has approximately 31,000 employees. Fairview has 11 hospitals, mainly in the Twin Cities: including Masonic Children’s Hospital, Southdale in Edina, St. John’s in Maplewood, Bethesda in St. Paul, Ridges in Burnsville, Woodwinds in Woodbury, Northland in Princeton, Lakes in Wyoming, Grand Itasca in Grand Rapids, and the Range in Hibbing. Fairview owns the University of Minnesota Medical Center and partners with the University of Minnesota Medical School and the University of Minnesota Physicians Group. The partnership between the U of M and Fairview ends in 2026 with an option for a 10-year extension in 2023.