Missouri nonprofit systems BJC HealthCare, Saint Luke's $10B merger will close Jan. 1

BJC HealthCare of St. Louis and Saint Luke’s Health System of Kansas City’s plans to form a 28-hospital, $10 billion system took a step forward today with the announcement of a definitive agreement to merge.

The organizations had first unveiled their potential combination in May and are now targeting a Jan. 1, 2024 close. The partners said in their Wednesday announcement that their cross-market deal has already satisfied “all regulatory reviews.”

“This is an exciting day for the future of health care in the Midwest,” BJC President and CEO Richard Liekweg said in a release. “Our thorough due diligence review, in partnership with Saint Luke’s, has affirmed the vital opportunities we have to improve health care across the communities we serve. As an integrated health system, we will be unwavering in our commitment to provide extraordinary care to our communities, while creating the region’s premier destination to practice world-class medicine, discover clinical breakthroughs and deliver innovative models of care.” 

The Missouri organizations’ deal will have Saint Luke’s joining under BJC, according to the announcement. Though they’ll operate as a single integrated, academic health system, each will be responsible for and maintain branding in their current regions.

St. Louis-based BJC Healthcare’s footprint is spread across the greater St. Louis, southern Illinois and southeast Missouri regions. It comprises 14 hospitals including two (Barnes-Jewish and St. Louis Children’s) affiliated with Washington University School of Medicine. It also operates multiple health service organizations providing home health, long-term care, workplace health and other offerings.

Kansas City, Missouri-based Saint Luke’s is a faith-based system with 14 hospitals and more than 100 offices throughout western Missouri and parts of Kansas. It also provides home care and hospice, adult and children’s behavioral care and a senior living community.

BJC’s Liekweg is slated to serve as the CEO of the combined entity, with Saint Luke’s CEO Melinda Estes, M.D., slated to retire at the end of the year. The organization’s initial board chair will come from Saint Luke’s side of the fence.

The systems reiterated earlier promises that their merger will expand services and fuel a combined $1 billion in annual community benefits. The organizations also said they are committed to accelerated medical and patient care innovation, as well as attracting and retaining a strong workforce.

“We are pleased to reach this important milestone in our journey to unite Saint Luke’s and BJC as we build on our shared mission to better serve our patients, teams and communities,” Estes said. “Together, we have the opportunity to improve the health of our communities for decades to come and to establish a new national standard for medical education and research. With complementary expertise and clinical care capabilities across our separate markets, delivered by nationally renowned health care professionals, our integrated system will serve patients across the continuum of care.”

BJC and Saint Luke’s cross-market deal is emblematic of a growing trend within the industry, which analysts posit is the result of distributed operational risk and limited regulatory scrutiny—though the jury is still out on whether they actually bring the quality and consumer cost benefits systems often promise.