(Editor's note: This report was updated with additional information.)
A letter of intent for a proposed merger between Hackensack Meridian Health and JFK Health, which includes a co-branding, was announced Thursday morning.
JFK said in a statement the system was looking for partners that would help "enhance its clinical services, increase access to services for patients and their families and further support JFK Health’s population health initiatives."
It will also provide a boost for the two entities in light of the anticipated 2018 opening of the Seton Hall and Hackensack Meridian medical school.
Hackensack Meridian Health co-CEO Robert Garrett said the students at the school now have an additional rotation location within the JFK hospitals.
JFK had previously been in talks with RWJBarnabas for some time, a spokesperson told NJBIZ.
But the letter of intent points to an entirely different dynamic for JFK and the state’s second largest system.
JFK Health CEO and President Raymond Fredericks said the company will be financially a part of the Hackensack Meridian Health system, but keep its JFK brand as well.
The co-branding is a unique step in the state, but hardly new for the co-CEOs of Hackensack Meridian Health. The Hackensack Meridian system is also co-branding the new medical school with Seton Hall University.
“We share a culture and vision for the future of health care that reinforces JFK Health’s role in the community,” Fredericks said. “Along with Hackensack Meridian Health, we will enhance our delivery of top-quality, coordinated patient care to our diverse community. We are proud of the more than 20-year relationship we have with Meridian successfully running Home Care and Satellite Rehabilitation facilities.”
Garrett said the system was humbled to be chosen to partner with JFK.
Hackensack Meridian has several ambulatory sites near JFK Health, so the merger makes sense, Garrett said.
Fredericks said the process began last year with input from the entire health system, including staff through board members.
John Lloyd, co-CEO of Hackensack Meridian Health, added: "JFK shares with us the common goal of providing an expansive continuum of care. With the addition of JFK Medical Center, we can look forward to ultimately enhancing our network and serving more people. “
JFK and legacy Meridian Health previously formed two joint ventures, Lloyd said.
The first was a rehabilitation facility, and then a home health services in 2010. For the JFK At Home service, JFK reported its 50 percent stake as less than $1 million in 2014.
The move would create a large partnership between the $4.3 billion Hackensack Meridian mega-health system and the $500 million JFK system in Central Jersey (based on 2014 reports) — leading to an approximately $4.8 billion organization. That keeps the system at second place, but narrows its gap behind the $5 billion RWJBarnabas Health.
The CEOs anticipate a definitive agreement by the end of January, followed by the regulatory process — including the FTC and state approvals — which should be complete by the end of next year.