The Potluck

AG seeking public input on potential merger between Fairview, Sanford Health

By: - November 22, 2022 1:20 pm

Attorney General Keith Ellison at a press conference on Oct. 25, 2022. Photo by Max Nesterak/Minnesota Reformer.

Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison on Tuesday announced his office is seeking public input on a possible merger between Sanford Health and Fairview Health Services to create a new health care system that spans the Midwest.

Ellison said people can submit comments or concerns about the merger through a new online forum. The Attorney General’s office will also hold three or four in-person meetings in greater Minnesota next year.

Last week, Sioux Falls-based Sanford and Minneapolis-based Fairview announced they signed a non-binding letter of intent to combine into one health care system under the name Sanford Health run by Sanford’s current CEO Bill Gassen. Sanford and Fairview will each remain nonprofits and retain their own leadership and regional boards.

The announcement comes about 10 years after a similar deal was squashed by state lawmakers and then Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson in 2013. Swanson’s main concern over the deal was that Sanford, an out-of-state organization, would be running the Fairview-owned University of Minnesota hospital.

Swanson was also concerned that Sanford would use Minnesota’s taxpayer dollars to expand into other states. She quickly organized a public hearing after the negotiations were announced and Minnesota lawmakers introduced legislation to block the merger at the time, according to the Star Tribune.

Ellison’s office is now investigating the potential merger to ensure it complies with state and federal charity and antitrust laws.

“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,” Ellison said Tuesday.

When asked why he wasn’t taking an aggressive stance about the proposed merger like Swanson did in 2013, Ellison said his office first wants information from the public about whether the merger is in the public’s interest. 

Fairview employs more than 31,000 employees across 11 hospitals, and Sanford has 47 medical centers employing 2,800 physicians and providers across the Dakotas and in greater Minnesota.

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Michelle Griffith
Michelle Griffith

Michelle Griffith covers Minnesota politics and policy for the Reformer, with a focus on marginalized communities. Most recently she was a reporter with The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead in North Dakota where she covered state and local government and Indigenous issues.