Creating a Smooth Exit for Provider’s Health Plan Sale


After continued financial losses, a large integrated health system made the strategic decision to sell its health plan operations. Though a buyer was quickly identified, the sale threatened to create upheaval for employees and members while fueling speculation about the nonprofit system’s future. Adding to the challenge, the announcement would coincide with a series of significant – yet unrelated – milestones for the health system including key leadership appointments and meetings with major ratings agencies. Given the proximity of these events, the health system was concerned media coverage would connect these announcements, lengthening the lifespan of both stories and prompting speculation about a direct, cause-and-effect connection between the events.

Strategy & Tactics

Recognizing the health plan divestiture would be viewed as highly newsworthy, Lovell developed a series of strategies to limit the media life cycle and create separation between the health plan and its parent organization. Working closely with the client to understand potential sensitivities around each event, we created a message platform to explain the rationale and address potential questions or concerns from stakeholders.

While the leadership changes were scheduled to take place within weeks of the health plan announcement, we developed multiple scenarios to ensure the system was prepared in the event the stories broke during the same week. A detailed leadership transition strategy and distinct message platform was created, providing additional context for the change and highlighting the accomplishments of outgoing leadership. Lovell also helped the health system prepare an internal cascade strategy for both announcements, which included town hall meetings, email and video messages, member communications and personal stakeholder outreach.


Both announcements were executed on time and according to plan. Though news of the health plan sale was met with some disappointment, employees, members and other stakeholders were provided the proper context to understand the rationale and how it would affect them. Media coverage, which was primarily focused on the health plan and its new owner, was balanced and limited to a single news cycle. Subsequent coverage of the system’s leadership changes was positive, and the vast majority of articles did not connect the events. Those that did make the connection included broader context, which reflected the system’s messaging. Weeks later, leaders used this same messaging to address the health plan exit during a series of meetings with ratings agencies and financial institutions.

Ultimately, our efforts with Karmanos brought their brand to an audience of more than 112 million in our first year.