Florida-based Hospice of Marion County (HMC) will join non-profit senior care provider Empath Health.
The two organizations signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to begin the process.
Empath Health is the parent company of Tidewell Hospice, Suncoast Hospice and Suncoast Hospice of Hillsborough. This year, the state of Florida issued requirement certificates that allow empath to enter three more counties.
According to HMC CEO Rick Bourne, affiliation with Empath will better position HMC for the evolving payments landscape, including demonstrating the value-based insurance design model (VBID).
“We started to see the handwriting on the wall of what the future holds in terms of Medicare Advantage carve-in and VBID, and we knew we had to prepare. Medicare Advantage penetration in our county is 53%,” Bourne told Hospice News. “We had discussions along the way and spoke to a number of other organizations as well. But we realized very quickly that Empath is very mission oriented, essentially the same culture as the Hospice of Marion County.”
HMC’s patient count is currently around 190, although it has reached as high as 400, according to Bourne.
.The transaction includes two other agencies in HMC’s portfolio, palliative care provider Carewell Supportive Care, and hospice-focused durable medical device (DMC) provider Accent Medical. HMC also operates four thrift stores to fund its programs.
Empath and HMC expect the integration to be complete by early 2023. HMC will not be rebranded and will retain its current leadership team, including Bourne.
“The reason Empath and then (old) Stratum came together, although we’ve now changed our name to Empath, is to really look at opportunities for continued collaboration and affiliation to really uphold the charitable mission of just hospice, but.” what we call it — effective life care,” Jonathan Fleece, president of Empath Health, told Hospice News. “We’re really committed to growth, not just because of scale, but because of so many market opportunities, and just make sure we continue on our mission.”
Empath Health merged with Stratum Health System in 2020 with the intent to offer a full continuum of home and community-based care. The Company offers hospice, home health care, primary care, palliative care, PACE, AIDS and sexual wellness care, and adult day services, among others.
The affiliation will help HMC to further develop businesses other than hospice, including home nursing and palliative care in the near future and potentially primary care and PACE in the future. Meanwhile, Empath will gain a foothold in Marion County, which already has a home health presence. The affiliation will also expand their DME business through the integration of Accent Medical.
“We actually have quite an extensive DME service which has also expanded into the Tidewell Hospice area over the past year. We’ve been offering it at Empath for probably two decades,” Empath CEO Rafael Sciullo told Hospice News. “So it’s a service we believe in. Of course we want to offer this service within our integrated care network and it also builds on our pharmacy services which we will both expand and offer together.”