Gundersen Health System may merge with Marshfield Clinic Health System

The systems have been talking behind closed doors about a potential merger for months now.

Gundersen Health System’s CEO Scott Rathgaber said the quality of care could go up while costs go down for both systems.

“It will make us one of the larger rural health care systems in the country,” Rathgaber said.

If the two systems merge they would have close to 20,000 employees, 13 hospitals and more than 100 clinics.

“We are looking at this as a merger of equals, which, if you look at our systems, we’re very equal. So we want to use the strengths and leverage them in each system to make the new entity even better,” Rathgaber said.

Both systems have been trying to cut medical costs for years and they said together they could pool their resources and knowledge to make that happen.

“By putting ourselves together we get economies of scale and ways to innovate and bring the care even further down because we have the combination of experience I think we can accelerate what we’re already doing,” Rathgaber said.

Marshfield Clinic Health System’s CEO Susan Turney said, “We realized that there was a lot that we could do together that would really improve our ability to serve the patients that are in our communities.”

It’s also good news for employees.

“There are no talks of layoffs,” Rathgaber said.

For the most part the systems cover two different areas of the state so they can lift each other up without stepping on each other’s toes.

“What’s really nice is that the two systems are contiguous by geography but we don’t overlap very much. It’d be a different conversation if we were overlapping and in the same markets,” Rathgaber said.

There’s no guarantee the merger will happen.

“We would like to see how this evolves over the next few months,” Rathgaber said.

But it’s a definite possibility.

“I don’t know if I can really put a percentage on it but I think that we will be trying to find a way for this to happen more than look for ways why it shouldn’t,” Rathgaber said.

If the merger happens, Gundersen hopes it would be by the end of the year, but says it could easily take longer.

“We want to do it right, not necessarily fast,” Rathgaber said.

Gundersen said there would be no changes in what insurance the new entity takes. There may, however, be a change in the name.

If that happens, Rathgaber said the new name would “honor the names” of both health care systems.

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