Partners, Harvard Pilgrim put merger talks on ice

Massachusetts General Hospital
Partners HealthCare and Harvard Pilgrim Health Care have ended their merger talks. (Massachusetts General Hospital)

Partners HealthCare and Harvard Pilgrim Health Care have tabled their merger discussions—for now, at least. 

Michael Carson, CEO of Harvard Pilgrim, said in a statement to FierceHealthcare that the two will continue to explore “opportunities for collaboration.” 

“Our discussions with Partners HealthCare have always been focused on exploring ways we can improve and enhance the patient experience while helping to control costs,” Carson said. 

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Massachusetts’ largest health system and one of the state’s largest payers revealed it was pursuing merger negotiations in May. Partners is the parent system for Massachusetts General Hospital and Brigham and Women’s Hospital. About 1.2 million people are enrolled in Harvard Pilgrim’s plans. 

In an interview with the Boston Globe, Partners CEO David Torchiana, M.D., said that future negotiations were possible, but the discussions were on hold for now as a deal between the two would face serious scrutiny from the state’s regulators. 

“Now isn’t the right time to try to push something like that ahead,” Torchiana told the newspaper. “I don’t think either organization is sure that it’s something that’s actually possible to achieve ... in this environment right now where there’s such intense scrutiny of every move.” 

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

Partners is also navigating a merger in Rhode Island, where it’s seeking to acquire Care New England Health System, the state’s second-largest. Lifespan, the largest system in the state, was also in negotiations to join the merger, before pulling out last month

Hospital mergers are big news in Massachusetts as well, with the deal between Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Lahey Health aiming to build a system large enough to challenge Partners’ market dominance. 

That merger has been heavily studied by the state, and the Massachusetts Health Policy Commission has called for the attorney general to review the deal. The commission warned that the addition of another giant health system in Massachusetts could drive up prices

Torchiana also told the Globe that Partners and Harvard Pilgrim were unsure if they were “functionally organized” to navigate the deal. 

Though the two had yet to enter into a formal deal for a merger, the possible deal already faced skepticism from Gov. Charlie Baker—who is a former CEO of Harvard Pilgrim—and Attorney General Maura Healey, according to the newspaper.

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