Hospital Merger Could Affect 2 Million Patients in Wisconsin

About two million people in Wisconsin and three other Midwestern states could have better access to specialty health care.

That’s if a merger between Marshfield Clinic Health System and Essentia Health moves forward. Marshfield Clinic operates hospitals and clinics throughout Wisconsin. This month, it announced a potential merger with the Minnesota-based Essentia Health. Both signed a written agreement on October 12 to explore the logistics of forming an integrated health system.

The health systems have complementary geographies and capabilities, officials said. If combined, the merged health system would include 3,500 providers, 150 care sites and 25 hospitals. Around 1,600 of those providers would come from Marshfield Clinic, along with 11 hospitals and 60 clinics. Essentia, meanwhile, has 70 clinics and 14 hospitals.

While the Marshfield Clinic and Essentia merger discussion is the most recent hospital merger dialogue in Wisconsin, it likely won’t be the last.

The hospital industry has consolidated substantially over the last two decades, and at a more rapid pace since 2010, according to a 2020 study by Harvard Medical School scientists.

The Harvard scientists examined patient outcomes from almost 250 hospital mergers between 2009 and 2013. They found that hospital mergers lead to higher prices for commercially insured patients and the quality of care at consolidated hospitals has either gotten worse or stayed the same.