On Friday, May 4th, the local healthcare market was shocked by the news of a possible merger between Partners HealthCare and Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, two of the largest healthcare organizations in the Massachusetts and New England areas. From a regional standpoint, this would throw a large wrench in an already uncertain and increasingly unaffordable healthcare market, whether for good or for bad (which I will get into later).
For some background, Partners HealthCare is a Boston-based hospital and physicians network with over 23,000 employees. Partners already owns several large, New England-based healthcare institutions like Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), Neighborhood Health Plan and Mass Eye and Ear. Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, on the other hand, is a leading national health insurance carrier. With over one million members, it has a large footprint in New England
While still merely a possibility, the unknown is causing a certain degree of uneasiness. There are a lot of questions around:
- Will this survive the antitrust reviews, based on consumer impact and consistency of the two organizations’ missions?
- Will this make healthcare in New England specifically more expensive?
- What are the positives a merger could have from a consumer standpoint?
- Beyond power, what would be the real reason behind the merger? Traditionally, a hospital system and an insurance carrier would have two different, often conflicting goals.
- What would this mean for the local, independent health systems like Lahey Clinic?
Although it is not possible to know all of these answers, consolidation often means less competition and higher costs. Whether you’re locally-based or not, you’ll want to stay tuned!
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