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Jefferson, Lehigh Valley Health plan to merge into 30-hospital system

Pennsylvania health systems Jefferson and Lehigh Valley Health Network have signed a non-binding letter of intent to combine.

Philadelphia-based Jefferson and Allentown, Pa.-based LVHN announced the letter Dec. 19 in a news release, with expectations to close the transaction in 2024. Combined, Jefferson and LVHN would form a system with 30 hospitals, more than 700 sites of care and more than 62,000 employees. 

Jefferson CEO Joseph Cacchione, MD, will serve as CEO of the expanded system — dubbed for now as Jefferson Enterprise — and LVHN President and CEO Brian Nester, DO, will serve as its executive vice president and COO. Dr. Nester will also serve as president of the legacy LVHN, reporting directly to Dr. Cacchione. An integrated board of trustees and leadership team will be made up of members from both systems, specifics of which are expected in the definitive agreement.

"The healthcare landscape and our communities' needs are changing; it is critical leading systems evolve and make investments in the future of care and wellness — growing and protecting access to enhanced, affordable, high-quality and innovative care, particularly for historically underserved patients," Dr. Cacchione said in the release. 

The merger is another development out of Jefferson, which has seen a year of change. Dr. Cacchione assumed the CEO post in September 2022, and the system has since welcomed a new president, CFO, and dean of its medical school and physicians group. Earlier this year, Jefferson rolled out a reorganization plan to operate as three divisions instead of five, which involved layoffs affecting executives and a later workforce reduction of about 400 positions.  

Cost-cutting has been in effect at LVHN, too. The 13-hospital system, which includes nearly 3,000 physicians and advanced practice clinicians, eliminated approximately 240 positions as part of restructuring this fall. 

"In Jefferson, we have found an ideal partner that shares our culture and commitment to excellence in clinical care and a learning environment, and that has done a fabulous job in establishing a highly successful health plan with a sharp focus on the well-being of Medicaid and Medicare beneficiaries," Dr. Nester said. "The expertise derived from these operations is becoming a crucial competency for health systems to deliver on their mission, and Jefferson Health Plans will help drive improvements in health outcomes, especially in vulnerable populations. We are also very excited about the opportunity to expand academic and talent development programs that will further bolster our provider pipeline and enhance our ability to attract and retain top talent to the benefit of the communities we both serve."

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