Gardenhire: Safety of Erlanger's pension plan of top importance as new business model mulled

Staff Photo by Matt Hamilton / Erlanger hospital is seen on Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2020.

Sen. Todd Gardenhire, R-Chattanooga, has filed a bill that would allow Erlanger Health System to transition to a private nonprofit model, although the senator said he's still mulling over the proposed legislation to change Chattanooga's public hospital.

As of Tuesday morning, Gardenhire said Senate Bill 2932, which is co-sponsored by Sen. Bo Watson, R-Hixson, is a placeholder to buy some time as he makes sure his lingering concerns are addressed before moving the bill forward.

"Once we pass this bill, I have no way to get assurances that I need," Gardenhire said, noting that the biggest hangup for him has been guaranteeing the hospital's pension plan is safe.

In early March, the Hamilton County Commission passed a resolution requesting that Hamilton County's legislative delegation propose an amendment to the 1976 private act that created the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Hospital Authority - better known as Erlanger Health System.