Partners Healthcare to launch new medical model

Partners HealthCare System--the largest healthcare provider in New England--announced Monday it plans to create a new medical model that will integrate hospitals and their medical services with insurance products and by drawing patients from across the country, according to The Boston Globe.

The model aims to improve medical care and lower costs by expanding its network of community hospitals and primary care physicians in Eastern Massachusetts, according to Gary L. Gottlieb, M.D., president and CEO of the Boston-based Partners HealthCare System, who spoke at the J.P. Morgan HealthCare Conference in San Francisco, the Globe reported.

As part of the plan, Partners may offer its own commercial health insurance products to customers. If tailored as limited-network policies, the insurance plan could keep patients within the Partners system, according to the article.

"We need to control our own destiny," Gottlieb said, adding that the system also plans to shift more routine care to community clinics and hospitals and market higher-priced specialty care at Massachusetts General and Brigham and Women's Hospital, both in Boston, to patients across the nation.

However, the Globe reported he did not offer a timetable for the project.

The announcement comes in the wake of the disclosure that Partners plans to sell $425 million worth of bonds to finance new construction and other expansion initiatives north and south of Boston. Partners says the expansion plans will make it easier to integrate services, control costs, and treat more patients in community settings rather than in the heart of the city.

But critics argue against the plans, stating the large system has created more expensive medical care, FierceHealthFinance previously reported.

The Massachusetts Health Policy Commission said the planned acquisition of South Shore Hospital in nearby Weymouth would drive up costs and restrict competition for healthcare services south of Boston. In its report, the commission estimated medical spending could increase by $23 million to $26 million per year for insurance providers Blue Cross Blue Shield, Harvard Pilgrim Health Care and Tufts Health Plan. Increases in physician prices and charges due to the merger would likely get passed on to consumers and employers, the report stated.

Meanwhile, the Globe reported Attorney General Martha Coakley's office and the U.S. Department of Justice is completing its four-year investigation into alleged anticompetitive practices by Partners.

Gottleib did not discuss either issue at Monday's meeting, according to the Globe.

To learn more:
- here's the Globe article