Cone Health is planning to merge with Sentara, a larger health care system based in Norfolk, Virginia.

The potential merger has been in the works for over a year. The combined annual revenue for the new organization is expected to be around $11.5 billion.

Leaders with Cone Heath and Sentara say it would allow both systems to expand access to health care with more clinics and offices. They would also invest in digital platforms to grow virtual services and programs.

The corporate headquarters would be in Norfolk, and Sentara Healthcare CEO Howard Kern would lead the organization. Greensboro would serve as a regional headquarters for the Cone Health division and CEO Terry Akin would remain there.

Sentara currently operates one North Carolina hospital in Elizabeth City. 

Akin says combining forces also opens up opportunities in the health plan market.

“Sentara has an insurance plan known as Optima. We also are in the insurance business in Medicare Advantage, HealthTeam Advantage, and combining those we're going to be offering some interesting opportunities to align incentives, and for the public, more choice in terms of health care and health insurance,” says Akin.

A new name for the combined organization hasn't been determined.

Cone Health employs around 13,000 people and Sentara employs around 30,000.

As for any job cuts or downsizing related to a merger, Akin says nothing's been decided right now and more jobs could come from the growth opportunities. He says both organizations have a commitment and history of avoiding layoffs and any changes on that end would first be addressed through attrition and reassignments.

The merger would have to be approved by state and federal regulators and would take two to three years to complete.

*Follow WFDD's Keri Brown on Twitter @kerib_news

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