HMH and RWJBH: 2 big systems, but which is bigger?

New Jersey is now home to two mega health care systems, which account for nearly half of all acute care hospitals in the state.

But declaring one the biggest in the state is difficult.

Hackensack Meridian Health said it was in the top spot after officially announcing JFK Health has joined the system last Wednesday.

But it is difficult to determine what numbers back that claim up.

HMH, with JFK joining its network, will have a total of 16 hospitals, 4,520 beds and employs nearly 33,000, including 6,500 staff physicians.

RWJBarnabas Health, which was previously touted as the largest system in the state, also has a total of 16 hospitals, 5,066 beds, 33,000 employees, plus 9,000 physicians.

HMH now has a total of 160 locations of all kinds in New Jersey. RWJBarnabas said it has 242 licensed patient care locations.

Both are claiming annual revenues at or near $5.5 billion.

RWJBarnabas told ROI-NJ its most recent financial information puts the system at $5.48 billion.

When Hackensack Meridian announced the merger with JFK in November 2016, the estimated combined revenue was $4.8 billion. At that time, HMH reported $4.3 billion and JFK reported just over $500 million.

The jump in revenues this year comes out to $650 million for JFK, according to CEO Ray Fredericks, and $4.4 billion for HMH, according to a spokesperson. The remainder $450 million in revenues is from joint ventures, according to Hackensack Meridian.

“There are a number of joint venture entities that don’t make it into public reporting — the two largest of those are joint ventures involving Mountainside Medical Center and Pascack Valley Medical Center,” a spokesperson told ROI-NJ. “When you factor in revenues from these entities, all of the HMH revenue and JFK, the total reaches $5.5 billion.”

(READ MORE from ROI-NJ on the HMH/JFK merger and its implications.)

Leslie Hirsch, interim CEO and president of the independent Saint Peter’s Healthcare System in New Brunswick, said the race to be the biggest is not new.

Hirsch has served, twice, as chairman of the New Jersey Hospital Association and has led faith-based hospitals in New Jersey and around the country, including in Denver and New Orleans.

“New Jersey has more than caught up and maybe even, relatively, (is) consolidating more rapidly than other parts of the country,” Hirsch said. “There are only 13 independent hospitals remaining and 70 acute care in the state. Fifty-eight are part of systems of at least two or more (hospitals).”

Cathleen Bennett, former Department of Health commissioner and current CEO and president of the New Jersey Hospital Association, said size helps reduce cost.

“One of the biggest potential benefits of system development is standardization of protocols, which can help both improve health care quality and reduce costs,” Bennett said. “An analysis released last year by AHA showed that acquired hospitals experienced a 2.5 percent reduction in operating expenses after becoming part of a system. You mentioned increased access to technology and capital; those are two key areas. Another benefit is the stronger position to negotiate with payers, with all that geographic area and market share that a growing system serves.”