Penn State Health, Highmark Health announce partnership

The new Penn State Health and Highmark Health strategic partnership is focused on improving access, quality and affordability of health care close to home for people across south central Pennsylvania, while creating new opportunities for medical education and research. "We want to collaborate with forward-thinking partners who, like us, are committed to creating a positive health care experience for members and patients".

Highmark Health's payer arm, Highmark Inc., will be free to contract with other hospitals and health systems, and its existing agreements with other health care providers in the region will remain unchanged.

Penn State Health's existing health insurance agreements will remain in place.

Penn State Health and Highmark Health announced Friday that they have reached an agreement for a strategic partnership.

The change at surrounding hospitals has been profound, with the most dramatic example being Pittsburgh-based UPMC's recent absorption of Harrisburg-based PinnacleHealth System along with Carlisle Regional Medical Center and three other hospitals in York and Lancaster counties. Highmark Health is both a health care service and health insurance provider.

In their release, they highlighted a goal of positioning themselves as more effective players in the evolving health care market, where payments are increasingly tied not to volume of care but to its quality.

They also said they wanted to preserve the role of independent physicians in the health care system.

"This exciting partnership is a commitment by our organizations to ensure that health care delivery in our region remains patient-focused, enhances overall health and wellness and creates increased opportunity for collaboration with community physicians", said Dr. A. Craig Hillemeier, dean, Penn State College of Medicine; chief executive officer, Penn State Health; and senior vice president for Health Affairs, Penn State.

The partnership between Highmark Health and Penn State Health comes less than a year after PinnacleHealth and the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center announced a merger, which was approved and finalized in September.

More details are expected Monday.

Highmark officials have stressed the importance of performance-based contracts with providers as a way to control health insurance costs.

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