Welltower CEO Touts Expanding Health System Initiatives, Teases ‘Welltower Living’ Brand

Welltower is moving forward on all cylinders with its strategy of closely aligning senior housing with health systems. In addition to a recently announced relationship with Jefferson Health, the real estate investment trust (REIT) is in the process of working closely with Geisinger Health in Pennsylvania, CEO Thomas DeRosa said Wednesday at the J.P. Morgan Healthcare conference in San Francisco.

DeRosa also mentioned that the REIT is rebranding some buildings as “Welltower Living.” The relevant communities are located in the Las Vegas area, a Welltower spokesperson told Senior Housing News, but further information was not immediately available Wednesday evening.

At the J.P. Morgan conference, DeRosa primarily highlighted several efforts underway to fulfill the Welltower vision of a more integrated health care continuum, in which older adults living in senior housing communities have easier access to wraparound services related to the social determinants of health such as your housing, food and access to transportation.

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By supporting the physical and social wellbeing of Welltower residents, including through health system partnerships and access to low-premium/low-deductible Medicare Advantage health plans, the idea is to reduce health care costs overall while extending length of stay in the Welltower-owned buildings and improving seniors’ quality of life.

One example is unfolding in Pennsylvania. There, Welltower acquired several buildings by forging a deal last year with Clover Management, a company that has created a more affordable model of independent living. The REIT discovered that about one-third of residents living in some of these communities in Scranton, Pennsylvania, are enrolled in the Medicare Advantage plan affiliated with regional health system Geisinger, DeRosa explained.

“Just think about that; Geisinger now sees that they can drive products and services to this population that will essentially enable them to lower the medical loss ratios for this population, and actually enroll others in these Medicare Advantage programs,” he said.

Now, the REIT is collaborating with Geisinger to create a wellness platform that leverages the health system’s Medicare Advantage plan, its Geisinger at Home services and 65 Forward clinics. 

In another health system play, Welltower earlier this week announced its intention to forge a joint venture with Jefferson Health, a large system serving the Philadelphia metro area.

Under a plan that is still in the works, Jefferson Health would sell some real estate into a joint venture with Welltower, unlocking capital that can be used to pay for pending acquisitions and build up its outpatient care capabilities.

At the same time, Jefferson Health would become more integrated into the senior living communities that Welltower owns in the area.

“We have a population of 20,000 seniors that live in the greater Philadelphia area that now we will connect to Jefferson’s home-based care programs and, following that, there will be initiatives to work together with Jefferson to drive social determinant models through new residential affordable care assets that we will develop in Jefferson market,” DeRosa said.

The REIT is pursuing several other health system collaborations, including through its joint venture with Toledo-based ProMedica, and a partnership announced last fall with CareMore.

DeRosa’s vision for the future is based on the fact that care is migrating away from hospitals and other expensive institutional settings toward outpatient centers and people’s homes. To reposition themselves for this reality, nonprofit health systems will have to sell some of the $600 billion in real estate currently sitting on their balance sheets and build new sites of care. Through transactions like the ProMedica JV and pending Jefferson Health JV, Welltower is both benefiting from and driving this trend, executives with the REIT emphasize.

“Tom often says that we’re a health care company that expresses our view of where health care is going through our ownership of real estate,” Welltower CFO Tim McHugh said Wednesday.

And while Welltower is easily one of the largest companies in the senior housing space to pursue a strategy based on this vision of the future, it is not alone. Other examples include providers affiliating with health systems, such as The Evangelical Lutheran Good Samaritan Society tying up with Sanford Health. Still other providers, such as those in the Perennial Consortium, are in the process of launching their own Medicare Advantage plans.

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