Partners, Care New England deal could raise insurance premiums in Rhode Island, study says

Boston-based Partners HealthCare and Providence, R.I.-based Care New England's proposed merger could raise health insurance premiums in Rhode Island, according to a new study commissioned by Rhode Island and obtained by WPRI.

Here are eight things to know.

1. The Rhode Island Office of the Health Insurance Commissioner, which regulates payers in the state, ordered the study in late 2017 after merger talks advanced.

2. The study, conducted by Bailit Health, was presented last week to the Health Insurance Advisory Committee, which is part of the Rhode Island OHIC.

3. Since CNE is struggling financially, the study authors said Partners' management would make major moves to shore up CNE's finances. As a result, the study authors concluded the proposed takeover would raise commercial health insurance premiums.

"[W]e find it likely that if Partners acquired CNE it would take actions to increase revenue to CNE, which, if successful, would adversely impact the affordability of Rhode Island commercial health insurance premiums in the immediate term," the study authors said, according to WPRI. "The financial realities imply that another acquiring entity would be likely to attempt the same, albeit perhaps with less insurer leverage than Partners."

4. The study commissioned by the state included numerous interviews with insurers who have worked with Partners. According to the report, one of these insurers told Bailit Health, "Our experience with Partners tells us they like to solve problems with revenue solutions. They will say, 'hit this price point or we are out of your network — including the whole Massachusetts network.'"

5. Partner's flagship facilities — Massachusetts General Hospital and Brigham and Women's Hospital, both based in Boston — have reputations for high prices in comparison to other community hospitals as a result of their strong reputation.

6. A Care New England spokesperson downplayed the findings of the Bailit Health study, saying the review was limited in scope and done without input from the two parties involved, according to WPRI.

7. This is the first time the Rhode Island OHIC ordered a study on a specific transaction, according to the report.

8. While the study was commissioned by the state OHIC, they do not have the final say in the proposed merger. The Rhode Island Department of Health will have the final say on the transaction.

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