Harvard Pilgrim Health Care on Thursday confirmed that it and Partners HealthCare are exploring a potential collaboration that could take the form of a financial integration or other arrangement.
The Massachusetts-based insurer did not use the term "merger."
"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," said Harvard Pilgrim by statement. "We are assessing a number of potential models for how this could best work. This could involve a range of options from new contractual arrangements to deeper clinical, operational and financial integration of our organizations."
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Talks are preliminary and no final agreement has been reached, Harvard Pilgrim said.
Harvard Pilgrim released the news three weeks after Partners HealthCare was forced to reveal that it was exploring ways to work together, after The Boston Globe released the story of a potential merger.
While financial results show losses for Harvard Pilgrim for the past two years, the insurer would bring an estimated 1.2 million covered lives into the Partners system, which has been expanding northward into New Hampshire.
Just last week Partners, which includes Massachusetts General and Brigham and Women's hospitals, announced it was exploring forming a regional network with Exeter Health Resources and Wentworth-Douglass Hospital, in Exeter and Dover, New Hampshire respectively, towns near the Massachusetts border.
Perhaps more importantly, Harvard Pilgrim brings the data and analytics company Benevera Health to the table.
Created in 2015, Benevera Health includes four New Hampshire hospitals, including the academic medical center Dartmouth-Hitchcock to the north. The other three are also located near the Massachusetts state line: Elliot Health System in Manchester; Frisbie Memorial in Rochester; and St. Joseph Hospital in Nashua.
Benevera meets the value-based challenge of collaboration between providers and payers to lower cost through the data of population health.
Partners and Harvard Pilgrim are looking at how to be best positioned to create a seamless end-to-end consumer experience that improves health outcomes and lowers costs.
"We believe that a world-class healthcare delivery system working together with one of the nation's most respected health plans holds great promise for meeting these goals," Harvard Pilgrim said.