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The Boston Globe

Health and wellness

Partners announces deal with Blue Cross to save $240 million

Partners HealthCare and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts announced a deal today that will reduce the insurer’s payments to the nine-hospital system by $240 million over the next three years, including $80 million next year.

Under a renegotiated contract, rate increases between 2012 and 2014 will be held in line with general inflation. Blue Cross customers will still see premium increases during that period, but they would be less than they would have been.

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The main elements of the deal were reported last month by Globe reporter Robert Weisman. Partners hospitals -- many of which are among the highest paid in the state -- will now be paid under a “global payment” system, which will put them on a budget for patient care rather than reimbursing them for each patient visit and procedure.

Blue Cross, the state’s largest health insurer, has been moving health care providers to its version of global payments, called the alternative quality contract, since 2009. It seeks to create financial incentives for hospitals to improve quality of care and reduce unnecessary and repetitive services.

Partners -- which has 1,300 primary care doctors and nearly 6,000 specialists practicing at hospitals including Brigham and Women’s and Massachusetts General -- is the largest health system to sign on to the insurer’s global payment contract. The agreement will cover about 200,000 Blue Cross members.

“Our customers and members will be the beneficiaries of these savings,” said Blue Cross President and CEO Andrew Dreyfus in a statement. Partners will be required to keep cost growth lower than the average for the rest of the Blue Cross provider network “or risk giving back some of the payments it receives,” he said.

Dr. Gary L. Gottlieb, president and CEO of Partners, said in a statement, “This announcement represents an important step toward slowing growth in health care costs.” He said Partners would work with other insurers in the hopes of realizing additional savings.

“The marketplace expects providers and insurers to find new ways to work together and keep cost growth down,” Gottlieb said. “We continue to explore even more ways to achieve that goal.”

Gideon Gil can be reached at ggil@globe.com.

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