Partners to affiliate with low-cost insurer

Partners HealthCare System, a network of hospitals that includes Brigham and Women’s Hospital in the Longwood Medical Area (LMA), earlier this month signed a letter of intent to “affiliate” with low-cost insurer Neighborhood Health Plan (NHP).

The affiliation would mean NHP, a Boston-based nonprofit health insurance company that provides insurance for people on Medicaid and in the Commonwealth Care program, would become part of Partners, Partners spokesperson Richard Copp told the Gazette.

The main goal of the potential affiliation is to “bend the cost curve,” Copp told the Gazette, though he declined to provide any details about how health care cost savings could be achieved through the move.

The proposed affiliation “includes a commitment by Partners to provide program and grant funding to health centers statewide in addition to its current provision of community benefits,” said Jim Hunt, CEO of the Massachusetts League of Community Health Centers, in a statement forwarded to the Gazette by NHP.

NHP currently largely focuses on providing patient care through neighborhood health centers.

As the Gazette previously reported, another low-cost insurer, Network Health, chose to exclude many notoriously expensive Partners hospitals—including Brigham and Women’s—from its network this year.

Partners was singled out in a report by Attorney General Martha Coakley last year and another report released last spring by the state Division of Health Care Finance and Policy as having some of the most expensive hospitals in the state.

Copp said the affiliation with NHP is unrelated to those factors.          The affiliation will require approval from the state Division of Insurance, the Executive Office of Health and Human Services and the Massachusetts Healthcare Connector Authority. It would also require state and federal anti-trust reviews, Copp said.

If it moves forward, NHP would become part of Partners, but maintain an independent board of directors, Copp said.

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