Does MHCC’s move into east Casper end ‘friendly’ era?

Memorial Hospital of Converse County has partnered with Western Medical Associates for years in very limited respects, as it had for several decades with Wyoming Medical Center – the publicly owned, quasi-privately run hospital in Natrona County and many other medical institutions.

The unwritten rule for so many years was one of playing friendly whenever possible. That meant only tip-toeing into each other’s primary markets and trying to not step on anyone’s head in an effort to expand your market. That friendly atmosphere worked well for a long time in a state long known for treating even your business competitors with a certain level of dignity and respect.

But the health care industry across the country, and even within the Cowboy State, has become more and more competitive as the margins between what a provider or hospital can bill and the costs to provide that service keep shrinking. That forces change and madates a more competitive stance.

While MHCC officials would never characterize their current partnership plan as an infiltration into the Wyoming Medical Center’s primary market, it has that impact. But some other realities are at play now that weren’t previously, most notably that WMC has agreed to sell to national health care operator Banner Health, and had already bought Mountain View Regional on Casper’s east end and turned it into its own outreach clinic.

Banner, a for-profit operation, is not known for its playing friendly attitude toward competitors, even with government-owned nonprofits like MHCC.

By partnering with Western Medical and opening a clinic on Casper’s east side just 15 miles from the Converse County line, MHCC is wisely establishing itself as a regional provider with a strong medical reputation for hometown service – something likely to be missing in the immediate future in Casper. With clinics already operating in many communities in neighboring counties, MHCC is also positioning itself to weather the turbulent times ahead in the health care industry.

––Matt Adelman

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