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Charleston-area health giant Roper outsourcing its reimbursement business

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Roper Hospital is located on Calhoun Street in Charleston. Roper St. Francis Healthcare is shifting its billing services and other back-office financial functions to an Ohio company. The firm plans to retain all the hospital workers involved, about 365 employees.  File/AP

One of the region's largest employers and medical providers is shifting its billing services and other back-office financial functions to an Ohio company that plans to retain all of the workforce.

The deal between Roper St. Francis Healthcare and Ensemble Health Partners takes effect Aug. 1. About 365 employees have been notified they'll be working for the privately held firm as of that date. 

"Ensemble has been instrumental in the success of its clients nationally, providing best practices, leadership and producing funds that are reinvested in patient care," Roper said in a statement.

The Cincinnati-based company is a health care outsourcing business that specializes in "revenue cycle management." It includes handling bills, claims, reimbursement requests and debt collections. 

The process is becoming more of a financial burden, according to Roper, which said it and other medical systems "continue to face obstacles" because insurers are making it more difficult to get paid for services by imposing stricter criteria, such as placing more emphasis on patient-satisfaction targets. Rising deductible minimums are another challenge.

As a result, providers are increasingly parceling out the work to outside experts, allowing them to free up capital and mitigate compliance risks. 

Roper said it will pay Ensemble a fee for taking over this part of its business. The transaction is not structured as a sale, spokesman Andy Lyons said. 

Melanie Stith, chief human resource executive for the nonprofit health system, said the deal will allow Roper to leverage Ensemble's "size and scale."

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"The idea is to get better technology and more sophisticated processes to give our patients better service," she said May 12.

Stith added that the switch isn't expected to affect the quality of medical care at Roper's four hospitals and its network of clinics because of the administrative nature of the work.

Also, the employees who will be transferring do not have to reapply for their jobs, and their pay won't change, she said.

"They will be working for a different company and doing the same thing but at a higher level," Stith said.

Roper, which employs about 6,000 workers, moved about 600 administrative jobs that were scattered throughout the region to an office campus it built along Palmetto Commerce Parkway in North Charleston about five years ago.

The new outsourcing deal was announced nearly 18 months after Bon Secours Mercy Health raised it ownership of Roper to 51 percent by injecting $185 million to recapitalize the Charleston-based medical system.

Ensemble was formed in 2014. It now has about 7,100 employees and works with more than 90 hospitals and 400 health facilities in 39 states, according to its website.

Roper's parent knows the outsourcing business well. Bon Secours Mercy Health owned Ensemble for about three years. It spun off the company in 2019 by selling a majority stake for a reported $1.2 billion to the private equity firm Golden Gate Capital. 

Contact John McDermott at 843-937-5572 or follow him on Twitter at @byjohnmcdermott

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