DOJ: News Release

Hearing on Review of Benefis’ Certificate of Public Advantage June 27 in Great Falls

HELENA – The Department of Justice will hold a public comment hearing on the 10-year review of Benefis Healthcare’s certificate of public advantage (COPA) on June 27, 2006, from 5 to 8 p.m. in the Missouri Room of the Great Falls Civic Center. The department will also accept written comments through July 10, 2006.

Attorney General Mike McGrath is accepting comment on all issues pertaining to the COPA, including the hospital’s proposal to dissolve the COPA that allowed the merger of Columbus Hospital and the Montana Deaconess Hospital to form Benefis Healthcare. The Department of Justice approved the merger in 1996 upon a finding that consolidation was likely to result in lower health care costs or improved access to health care or higher quality health care without any undue increase in health care costs.

The department’s approval of Benefis’ merger came with extensive conditions including regulations to ensure that savings from the merger were passed on to consumers, and that both the scope and quality of services offered by the two hospitals were maintained.

The COPA contains a provision that the Department of Justice shall conduct a review to determine the extent to which the terms and conditions of the COPA should be maintained, modified, amended or repealed in order to further the purposes of the Montana statutes that implement the COPA. The Department of Justice’s review of the public’s comments will begin on July 15, 2006.

Benefis has put out a proposal to dissolve the COPA, pointing primarily to changes in the market for medical care in north-central Montana and other regulatory requirements to argue that the Attorney General’s oversight is no longer required.

Written comments on issues relating to the COPA, including the Benefis proposal to dissolve it may be submitted via mail to Attorney General Mike McGrath, Montana Department of Justice, P.O. Box 201401, Helena, MT 59620-1401 or via e-mail at

Comments will be accepted until July 10, 2006. Any written comments should be introduced with a reference to the 10-Year Review of the COPA. E-mail comments should have “Benefis COPA” in the subject line.

All comments will be forwarded to Benefis and it will be given an opportunity to respond up to August 15, 2006. Benefis’ responses will be available on the Attorney General’s website. McGrath said he plans to make a decision on Benefis’ proposal to dissolve the COPA after all comments and responses have been reviewed and the Department’s consultants have completed an independent analysis by October 15.

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