Partners, Harvard Pilgrim in talks for a possible merger

handshake over a desk with computers and someone taking notes
Partners HealthCare is probing a merger with Harvard Pilgrim Health Care. (rawpixel)

Massachusetts' largest healthcare system may be looking to expand further. 

Partners HealthCare is in talks with Harvard Pilgrim Health Care—one of the largest insurers in the state—for a possible merger, officials from Harvard Pilgrim confirmed in a statement to FierceHealthcare.

Partners is the parent system for Massachusetts General Hospital and Brigham and Women's Hospital, while Harvard Pilgrim has 1.2 million members in its plans. 

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"As two leading and innovative healthcare companies, Partners and Harvard Pilgrim have been engaged in exploratory conversations regarding whether each of our strong organizations could be even more successful working together," the payer said in the statement. 

A partnership—which could stop short of a merger—would benefit both as it could lead to lower costs and a more "seamless" patient experience, Harvard Pilgrim said. 

RELATED: Healthcare merger pose a patient safety risk, study finds 

The two entities are exploring different models on how they could align, and nothing concrete has been set, according to the statement. 

Partners had not responded to a request for comment at the time of publication. Rich Copp, spokesman for the system, told the Boston Herald that Partners is "constantly exploring new partnerships" with both payers and providers to improve care. 

"Both of our organizations are taking the opportunity to explore ways that we can work together to improve the patient experience and quality of care while controlling medical trend and reducing costly administrative burden," Copp said. 

RELATED: 13 M&A deals that made headlines in 2017 

News that Partners may be looking to merge with Harvard Pilgrim comes just a few months after its merger with Care New England Health System, the second largest system in Rhode Island, expanded to include Lifespan, Rhode Island's largest health system. 

The three health systems are in formal discussions on how they can join forces to streamline care for patients in Rhode Island. The Partners-Care New England deal was announced in April 2017. 

As Partners continues to grow, some of its biggest competitors are looking to join forces to better challenge the Massachusetts hospital giant. Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Lahey Health are navigating the needed regulatory hurdles to merge, and the two systems await the results of an analysis from the Massachusetts Health Policy Commission, which is expected to be released this summer. 

Though Beth Israel and Lahey maintain that their union would pull patients away from Partners' pricier facilities, Tufts Medical Center CEO Michael Wagner, M.D., slammed the proposed deal, saying it could worsen disparities.

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