County commission votes to sell Wyoming Medical Center to Banner Health
The $200 million deal to sell Wyoming Medical Centers' assets to Banner Health was approved Thursday by the Natrona County Commission.
August 14, 2020
The $200 million deal to sell Wyoming Medical Center’s assets to Banner Health was approved Thursday by the Natrona County Commission, clearing the way for the facility to become a part of Banner’s growing system.
The commission’s five members all voted unanimously, after the county’s separate hospital board also gave its approval. The deal will see $120 million go to the county’s coffers, plus roughly $40 million dispatched to the hospital’s reinforced foundation. Banner will also absorb $50 million in debt left over from WMC construction and the purchase of Mountain View Regional two years ago.
The rest of the hospital’s assets, totaling roughly $200 million, will also be shifted into the foundation, which will see its footprint grow astronomically in the wake of this deal. In 2017, the foundation had about $1.9 million in net revenue and $7.8 million in total assets. This deal will see it gain well over $200 million (though county attorney Eric Nelson told the board that this number may fluctuate). With that level of investment, officials have said, the foundation will become one of the largest philanthropic organizations in the state. It will continue to support WMC while also expanding to issue grants elsewhere in the area. The county will continue to work with the foundation on the disbursement of funding.
For decades, after WMC as it’s known today was created in the 1980s, the county has essentially been the hospital’s landlord, with control over its physical assets. But the county has leased the land back to the hospital for virtually nothing, in exchange for the hospital treating inmates, low-income patients and those on involuntary holds. The hospital will continue providing that care under Banner, Nelson told the commission Thursday, and the hospital will continue offering already existing services — like an emergency room, trauma services and baby-delivery care — into the future.
But the overall oversight of the hospital is handled by its own nonprofit board. The acquisition deal also requires the blessing of that board; a hospital spokeswoman said last week that the board would be meeting before the county commission took its vote. The lawyer presenting the deal Thursday told the commission that WMC’s board had voted to approve the deal on Wednesday.
Banner has also committed to investing $100 million in WMC over the next decade.
The two systems, one dominant in Wyoming and the other dominant in the region, first publicly announced their courtship in January, when the two organizations said they had signed a letter of intent. At that point, it wasn’t clear what any prospective deal would look like; WMC initially said it wanted a partner to affiliate with. But the deal was unveiled last month as a full acquisition.
The price tag — $157 million, plus $50 million in debt absorption — was established by a national health care valuation firm, attorney Jerry Bell told the commission. He said he was “one thousand percent” confident in the valuation, after commissioner Brook Kaufman told him she’d heard concerns about WMC being undervalued.
The deal gained the public support of key physicians — including in a public letter printed in the Star-Tribune signed by chief of staff Dr. Andy Dunn and county health officer Dr. Mark Dowell. It did draw criticism from Sen. Charlie Scott, a Natrona County Republican who chairs the state senate’s health committee. He criticized the deal at a public meeting last month as a “high-risk gamble.”